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  1. (in Scottish legends) a water spirit, usually having the form of a horse, reputed to cause drownings or to warn those in danger of drowning.

Origin of kelpie1

First recorded in 1740–50; origin uncertain


  1. Australian kelpie.

Origin of kelpie2

First recorded in 1905–10
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for kelpie

Historical Examples

  • It was the Kelpie, with an empty bag—a pillow-case, I believe—in her hand.

    Ranald Bannerman's Boyhood

    George MacDonald

  • My only excuse for them is, that I hoped by them to drive the Kelpie away.

  • I began a series of persecutions of the Kelpie on my own account.

  • The kelpie gave a hideous roar, and turned away to run from the wimble.

  • I thought at first it was the Kelpie come after me, for it was a tall woman.

British Dictionary definitions for kelpie



noun plural -pies
  1. an Australian breed of sheepdog, originally developed from Scottish collies, having a smooth coat of various colours and erect ears

Word Origin

named after a particular specimen of the breed, c. 1870


  1. (in Scottish folklore) a water spirit in the form of a horse that drowned its riders

Word Origin

C18: probably related to Scottish Gaelic cailpeach heifer, of obscure origin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for kelpie


1747, Scottish, of unknown origin, perhaps related to Gaelic colpach "heifer, steer, colt;" colpa "cow, horse." The Lowland name of a demon in the shape of a horse that was reputed to haunt lakes and rivers and to delight in causing drownings. But unlike its equivalents in Danish (nøkken) and Icelandic (nykur), it occasionally was benevolent, especially to millers by keeping their streams running.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper