go·​lem ˈgō-ləm How to pronounce golem (audio) ˈgȯi- How to pronounce golem (audio)
: an artificial human being in Hebrew folklore endowed with life
: something or someone resembling a golem: such as

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The Evolution of Golem

The Hebrew ancestor of the word golem meant "shapeless mass," and the original golems started as lumps of clay that were formed into figures and brought to life by means of a charm or a combination of letters forming a sacred word. In the Middle Ages, golems were thought to be the perfect servants; their only fault was that they were sometimes too literal or mechanical in fulfilling their masters' orders. In the 16th century, the golem was thought of as a protector of the Jews in times of persecution. But by the late 1800s, golem had acquired a less friendly second sense, referring to a man-made monster that inspired many of the back-from-the-dead creations of classic horror fiction.

Example Sentences

the supervisor was a golem who never had an unprogrammed thought in her life
Recent Examples on the Web Ancient Greeks told stories of the inventor Daedalus producing mechanisms that walked like men, Jewish folklore had the golem, and real-life inventors have been crafting humanlike automata from early Islam to Renaissance Europe. Clive Thompson, WIRED, 13 Oct. 2022 The golem was molded out of clay by an elderly rabbi, who brought his creation to life with a magic spell written on a piece of parchment. Deborah Treisma, The New Yorker, 13 Sep. 2021 In this way, by erasing and rewriting that letter, the rabbi could start and stop the golem. Deborah Treisma, The New Yorker, 13 Sep. 2021 Likely, many will glean in Yente’s story certain echoes of the story of the golem, that old Jewish legend from Prague. Deborah Treisma, The New Yorker, 13 Sep. 2021 But their mission — to take down Cara Delevingne’s undersketched witch, Enchantress, and her giant golem-like brother — is a bit of a bust. Bilge Ebiri, Vulture, 6 Aug. 2021 In the back half of Helene Wecker’s new book, The Hidden Palace—a sequel to her popular 2013 novel, The Golem and the Jinni—the golem gets a new job. Adam Rogers, Wired, 10 June 2021 This entire damage mitigation thing kicked off when PCF patched out a bug that allowed a permanent golem protection shield, reducing damage for an entire run. Paul Tassi, Forbes, 27 May 2021 For a playground in Jerusalem in 1971, Saint Phalle designed a black-and-white golem, its rippling walls indebted to Gaudí, with three slides formed from its three giant tongues. Jason Farago, New York Times, 8 Apr. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'golem.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Yiddish goylem, from Hebrew gōlem shapeless mass

First Known Use

1897, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of golem was in 1897


Dictionary Entries Near golem

Cite this Entry

“Golem.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/golem. Accessed 29 Nov. 2022.

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