a grotesque sprite or elf that is mischievous or malicious toward people.

Origin of goblin

1300–50; Middle English gobelin < Middle French < Middle High German kobold goblin; see kobold

Synonyms for goblin

Goblin, gnome, gremlin refer to supernatural beings thought to be malevolent to people. Goblins are demons of any size, usually in human or animal form, that are supposed to assail, afflict, and even torture human beings: “Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damn'd, …” (Shak. Hamlet I, iv ). Gnomes are small beings, like ugly little old men, who live in the earth, guarding mines, treasures, etc. They are mysteriously malevolent and terrify human beings by causing dreadful mishaps to occur. Gremlins are thought to disrupt machinery and are active in modern folklore.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for goblin

Historical Examples of goblin

  • The first mound that I encountered belonged to a goblin who was splashing in his tub.

    American Notes

    Rudyard Kipling

  • To me they sounded suspiciously like the goblins in my goblin book.

    The Harbor

    Ernest Poole

  • The goblin immediately vanished; and Edwin was left in solitude.


    William Godwin

  • The goblin descended from its eminence, and directed the course of Roderic.


    William Godwin

  • One only goblin was daring enough to pronounce a curse upon him.


    William Godwin

British Dictionary definitions for goblin



(in folklore) a small grotesque supernatural creature, regarded as malevolent towards human beings

Word Origin for goblin

C14: from Old French, from Middle High German kobolt; compare cobalt
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 goblin

early 14c., "a devil, incubus, fairy," from Old French gobelin (12c., as Medieval Latin Gobelinus, the name of a spirit haunting the region of Evreux, in chronicle of Ordericus Vitalis), of uncertain origin, perhaps related to German kobold (see cobalt), or from Medieval Latin cabalus, from Greek kobalos "rogue, knave," kobaloi "wicked spirits invoked by rogues," of unknown origin. Another suggestion is that it is a diminutive of the proper name Gobel.

Though French gobelin was not recorded until almost 250 years after appearance of the English term, it is mentioned in the Medieval Latin text of the 1100's, and few people who believed in folk magic used Medieval Latin. [Barnhart]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper