- a mischievous invisible being, said by airplane pilots in World War II to cause engine trouble and mechanical difficulties.
- any cause of trouble, difficulties, etc., especially in a mechanical, electrical, or other system: A loose wire was the gremlin that blew out the lights.
Origin of gremlin
SynonymsSee more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
Examples from the Web for gremlin
You can put mag wheels on a Gremlin,” commented one long time Michigan observer, “but that doesn't make it a Mustang.The Rustbelt Roars Back From the Dead
Joel Kotkin, Richey Piiparinen
December 7, 2014
“You can put mag wheels on a Gremlin,” comments one long-time Michigan observer.Richard Florida Concedes the Limits of the Creative Class
March 20, 2013
Whatever the gremlin was, it wasn't exactly an auspicious start for a fifty million-mile hop.Deepfreeze
Robert Donald Locke
- an imaginary imp jokingly said to be responsible for malfunctions in machinery
- any mischievous troublemaker
Word Origin and History for gremlin
"small imaginary creature blamed for mechanical failures," oral use in R.A.F. aviators' slang from Malta, Middle East and India said to date to 1923. First printed use perhaps in poem in journal "Aeroplane" April 10, 1929; certainly in use by 1941, and popularized in World War II and picked up by Americans (e.g. "New York Times" Magazine April 11, 1943). Of unknown origin. Speculations in Barnhart are a possible dialectal survival of Old English gremman "to anger, vex" + the -lin of goblin; or Irish gruaimin "bad-tempered little fellow." Surfer slang for "young surfer, beach trouble-maker" is from 1961 (short form gremmie by 1962).