goblin or hobgoblin, in French folklore, small household spirit, similar to the Celtic brownie. Goblins perform household tasks but also can make mischief, such as pulling the covers off sleepers. They like wine and pretty children.

A goblin is an evil, crabby, or mischievous creature of folklore, often described as a grotesquely disfigured or gnome-like phantom, that may range in height from that of a dwarf to that of a human. They are attributed with various (sometimes conflicting) abilities, temperaments and appearances depending on the story and country of origin. In some cases, goblins have been classified as constant annoying little creatures somewhat related with the brownie.


According to "The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English," the name is probably derived from the Anglo-French gobelin (which was rendered, in Medieval Latin, as gobelinus), which is probably a diminutive of Gobel, a name related to the word kobold (a German sprite). In addition, there also exist various other alternative spellings of the word goblin, including: Gobblin, gobeline, gobling, goblyn, gobelinus (Medieval Latin).

Dwarfs, hiisi, duende, tengu, Menninkäinen and kallikantzaroi are often translated into English as 'goblins'. The Erlking and Billy Blind are sometimes called goblins. 'Goblin' is often used as a general term to mean any small mischievous being.

According to some traditions, goblin comes from Gob or Ghob, the king of the gnomes , whose inferiors were called Ghob-lings.

Skratta (which means "to laugh" in modern Swedish) is old Scandinavian word for a goblin or monster (modern Icelandic skratti, a devil).

A creature resembling a goblin, but larger than a human, is often considered an Ogre or a Troll.

Origins in folklore

One fabled origin for goblins is in France, in a cleft of the Pyrenees, from which they spread rapidly throughout Europe. They hitched a ride with Viking ships to get to Britain. They have no homes, being nomadic, dwelling temporarily in mossy cracks in rocks and tree roots.

Sir Walter Scott in his Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft ascribed gnomes, kobolds and goblins, along with Scottish bogles, to all correspond with a caricature of the Sami people.

Goblin Places

Early Fiction

Video Games

See also


Further reading

  • British Goblins: Welsh Folk-lore, Fairy Mythology, Legends and Traditions by Wirt Sikes
  • Encyclopedia of Things That Never Were by Michael Page & Robert Ingpen
  • The Complete Encyclopedia of Elves, Goblins, and Other Little Creatures by Pierre Dubois
  • Goblins! and The Goblin Companion by Brian Froud
  • Spirits, Fairies, Gnomes and Goblins: an Encyclopedia of the Little People by Carol Rose




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