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Goya - Caprichos (49).jpg
CountryNorthwestern Europe, Scandinavia, British Isles, United States
HabitatCaves, woodland
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For other uses, see Goblin (disambiguation).
Goya - Caprichos (49).jpg
CountryNorthwestern Europe, Scandinavia, British Isles, United States
HabitatCaves, woodland

A goblin is a legendary evil or mischievous grotesque dwarf-like daemon or monster that appeared in European stories and accounts during the Middle Ages.

They are attributed with various (sometimes conflicting) abilities, temperaments and appearances depending on the story and country of origin. In some cases, goblins are little creatures related to the brownie and gnome. They are usually small, sometimes only a few inches tall, sometimes the size of a dwarf, and have magical abilities; they are greedy, especially for gold and jewelry.


Alternative spellings include gobblin, gobeline, gobling, goblyn, and gobbelin.

English goblin is first recorded in the 14th century and is probably from unattested Anglo-Norman *gobelin,[1] similar to Old French gobelin, already attested around 1195 in Ambroise of Normandy's Guerre sainte, and to Medieval Latin gobelinus in Orderic Vitalis before 1141,[2][3] which was the name of a devil or a daemon haunting the country around Évreux, Normandy.

It may be related both to German kobold and to Medieval Latin cabalus, or *gobalus, itself from Greek κόβαλος (kobalos), "rogue", "knave", "imp", "goblin".[2][4] Alternatively, it may be a diminutive or other derivative of the French proper name Gobel, more often Gobeau,[5][6] diminutive forms Gobelet, Goblin, Goblot, but their signification is probably "somebody who sells timblers or beakers or cups".[7] Moreover, these proper names are not from Normandy, where the word gobelin, gobelinus first appears in the old documents. German Kobold contains the Germanic root kov- (Middle German Kobe "refuge, cavity", "hollow in a rock", Dial. English cove "hollow in a rock", English "sheltered recess on a coast", Old Norse kofi "hut, shed" ) which means originally a "hollow in the earth".[8][9] The word is probably related to Dial. Norman gobe "hollow in a cliff", with simple suffix -lin or double suffixation -el-in (cf. Norman surnames Beuzelin,[10] Gosselin,[11] Étancelin,[12] etc.)

The Welsh coblyn, a type of knocker, derives from the Old French gobelin via the English goblin.[13][14]

European folklore and collected folk stories[edit]

Goblin-like creatures in other cultures[edit]

Many Asian mythical creatures have been likened to, or translated as, goblins. Some examples for these:

Goblin-related place names[edit]

Goblins in fiction and popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ T. F. Hoad, English Etymology, Oxford University Press, p. 196b.
  2. ^ a b CNRTL etymology of gobelin (online French)
  3. ^ Du Cange et al, Glossarium mediae et infimae latinitatis ...(online French and Latin) [1]
  4. ^ κόβαλος, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
  5. ^ Harper, Douglas. "Goblin". The Online Etymological Dictionary. Retrieved 2011-12-20. 
  6. ^ HOAD, p. 196b.
  7. ^ Albert Dauzat, Noms et prénoms de France, Librairie Larousse 1980, édition revue et commentée par Marie-Thérèse Morlet. p. 295b Gobel.
  8. ^ Duden, Herkunftswörterbuch : Etymologie der deutschen Sprache, Band 7, Dudenverlag, p. 359 : Kobel, koben, Kobold.
  9. ^ HOAD, p. 101b.
  10. ^ Géopatronyme : surname Beuzelin in France (online French)
  11. ^ Géopatronyme : surname Gosselin in France (online French) Gosselin
  12. ^ Géopatronyme : surname Étancelin in France (online French)
  13. ^ Franklin, Anna (2002). "Goblin", The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Fairies. London: Paper Tiger. ISBN 1-84340-240-8. p. 108
  14. ^ The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English
  15. ^ Apples4theTeacher - short stories
  16. ^ Dutch Fairy Tales for Young Folks, 1918, compiled by William Elliot Griffis
  17. ^ Sacred texts
  18. ^ Rick Walton - folktale
  19. ^ Sacred texts
  20. ^ Ghosts, Goblins, and Haunted Castles, Aventinum Publishers, 1990 in English, page 51
  21. ^ Glasgow Street Names, Carol Foreman, Birlinn, 2007, page 58.
  22. ^ SF Site
  23. ^ Thompson, William (2005). "Goblins". In Gary Westfahl. The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Themes, Works, and Wonders 1. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. p. 348. ISBN 0-313-32951-6. 
  24. ^ F, S (2008). "Stronghold Creatures". Age Of Heroes. Retrieved 2011-02-24. 
  25. ^ The Complete Encyclopedia of Elves, Goblins, and Other Little Creatures by Pierre Dubois, in English 2005
  26. ^ Encyclopedia of Things That Never Were by Michael Page & Robert Ingpen, 1987
  27. ^ "Glossary". Survivalblog.com. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  28. ^ "Jeff Cooper’s Commentaries #7". Scribd.com. 2008-04-14. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 

Further reading[edit]