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Definition: Goblin from Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable

A familiar demon, dwelling, according to popular legend, in private houses, chinks of trees and various other places. In many parts miners attributed to them the strange noises they heard in the mine. The word is French gobelin, from German Kobold. See also COBALT; GNOME.


Summary Article: goblin from Chambers Dictionary of the Unexplained

A general term for a small, dark, ugly and mischievous or evil fairy.

In Western folklore, the word ‘goblin’ is used to refer to any small, dark and ugly fairy of a mischievous or evil disposition. It comes from the Old French gobelin, which probably derived from the Greek kobālos, meaning a mischievous spirit, and the term includes boggarts, bogies and bogles, among others. They are said to live underground, especially in churchyards, or between the roots of ancient trees, and are most likely to be seen at hallowe’en. Some people claim that the race of goblins originated from a cleft in the Spanish Pyrenees, and from there spread all over Europe. Goblins are most common in English and French folklore, and are usually portrayed as diminutive and grotesque figures who visit human dwellings, usually in order to wreak havoc there at night, knocking on doors and walls, breaking crockery, moving furniture around and banging on pots and pans. Folk tales generally hold that it is wise to leave some food and milk out for them at night to gain their goodwill. They are usually merely playful, but like most fairies, can be malicious and harmful if crossed. A smile from a goblin can turn milk sour and curdle the blood, and its laugh makes the fruit fall off the trees. hobgoblins, however, are a much friendlier and more benevolent type of goblin.

© Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd 2007

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