The word seems to derive from 'Robin Goblin', abbreviated to 'hobgoblin', 'hob', or 'lob'. The name originally referred to a specific folkloric character Robin Goodfellow but has grown to be defined as a different species of goblin or fairy. In French folklore, hobgoblins are called Lutin.
The name is often interchangeable with "bugbear", "boogeyman", "bugaboo" or "bogie", and the term "hobgoblin" has grown to mean a superficial object that is a source of (often imagined) fear or trouble; probably the most well-known example of this usage is Ralph Waldo Emerson's line, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," from the essay Self-Reliance.
In Finn Family Moomintroll, third book of the Moomin series of children's books by Tove Jansson, The Hobgoblin is a strange magical creature; even his hat, when found by other creatures, can work strange sorts of magic all by itself. While slightly frightening to those who don't know him, Hobgoblin is in fact a rather lonely and sensitive creature, who can grant the wishes of others but not his own—unless somebody specifically asks him for something which he wants, and then gives him what he himself created. In this depiction, "Hobgoblin" seems the name of one specific creature rather than that of a whole species, though this point is left deliberately ambiguous.
It has to be said, though, that he's only known as "the Hobgoblin" in the English translation—in the original Swedish edition of the book, the Hobgoblin is simply referred to as "Trollkarlen" ("The Wizard") and his species is not mentioned.
In Aidyn Chronicles: The First Mage, hobgoblins are large, thorny brutes that infest the desolate mountain passes of Errormon, home of the Mirari folk. Their leader is Kitarak, who must be slain in a certain point of the game.
In Mage: The Ascension a hobgoblin is a physical manefestation of a hallucination suffered by a Mage's avatar.
In Exalted Hobgoblins are warrior grunts of the fair folk.
In Flintloque Hobgoblins are a race similar to the Welsh who come from the land of Taffsea and fight for the Grand Alliance with the Orcs of Albion. They portray various Welsh stereotypes, often being named as the Boyos of Taffsea, and their cavalry ride on war sheep.
In Changeling: the Lost Hobgoblins are strange fae creatures that live within the Hedge that divides Arcadia and the mortal world.
Hobgoblins appear in the games Fable and the Elder Scrolls.
In the Fable game series they are small, fat and disfigured. They are called hobbes and are described as trouble, stupid and greedy. They eat flesh and sleep in rivers; they shoot magical orbs from a staff or use weapons like hammers or axes. They can range from the size of a child to the size of a big man. The smaller, weaker one can be summoned by wood nymphs, for whom they also work. They usually live in hobbe caves. They are the guardians of a demon door guarding the dark will users suit.
In the Heroes of Might and Magic Series, hobgoblins are upgraded forms of goblins, and are aligned with the barbarian/might towns.