• synonyms


  1. (in folklore) one of a species of diminutive beings, usually described as shriveled little old men, that inhabit the interior of the earth and act as guardians of its treasures; troll.
  2. an expert in monetary or financial affairs; international banker or financier: the gnomes of Zurich.
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Origin of gnome1

1705–15; < French < New Latin gnomus, perhaps < Greek gnṓmē; see gnome2
Related formsgnom·ish, adjective


1. See goblin, sylph.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for gnomish

Historical Examples

  • All his brave resolutions seemed to drain away before their old, gnomish faces.

    The Colors of Space

    Marion Zimmer Bradley

  • Out from the yellow heart of the pansy-blackness her small, grave, gnomish face peered after him with pristine frankness.

    Little Eve Edgarton

    Eleanor Hallowell Abbott

  • Presently his face, preternaturally solemn and gnomish behind the goggles, protruded over the rim.

    The Unspeakable Perk

    Samuel Hopkins Adams

  • A quick visualization of that gnomish, froggish face was enough to dispel the suspicion.

    The Unspeakable Perk

    Samuel Hopkins Adams

British Dictionary definitions for gnomish


  1. one of a species of legendary creatures, usually resembling small misshapen old men, said to live in the depths of the earth and guard buried treasure
  2. the statue of a gnome, esp in a garden
  3. a very small or ugly person
  4. facetious, or derogatory an international banker or financier (esp in the phrase gnomes of Zürich)
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Derived Formsgnomish, adjective

Word Origin

C18: from French, from New Latin gnomus, coined by Paracelsus, of obscure origin


  1. a short pithy saying or maxim expressing a general truth or principle
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Word Origin

C16: from Greek gnōmē, from gignōskein to know
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 gnomish


1822, from gnome + -ish. Related: Gnomishly; gnomishness.

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"dwarf-like earth-dwelling spirit," 1712, from French gnome, from Modern Latin gnomus, used 16c. in a treatise by Paracelsus, who gave the name pigmaei or gnomi to elemental earth beings, possibly from Greek *genomos "earth-dweller" (cf. thalassonomos "inhabitant of the sea"). A less-likely suggestion is that Paracelsus based it on the homonym that means "intelligence" (preserved in gnomic). Popular in children's literature 19c. as a name for red-capped German and Swiss folklore dwarfs. Garden figurines first imported to England late 1860s from Germany.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper