grem·​lin | \ ˈgrem-lən How to pronounce gremlin (audio) \

Definition of gremlin

: a cause of error or equipment malfunction (as in aircraft) conceived of as a small mischievous gnome

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Examples of gremlin in a Sentence

during the World Wars, fighter pilots adopted the fanciful notion that gremlins were responsible for mechanical failures on their planes

Recent Examples on the Web

Gizmo is a nice pet, until of course one of those things happen and the gremlins wreak havoc on an entire town the night before Christmas. Cady Drell, Marie Claire, "The Best '80s Horror Movies That Are Still Terrifying Today," 23 Oct. 2018 Miller’s take on the classic gremlin tale is truly horrifying. Joyce Bautista Ferrari, Marie Claire, "The Best Horror Movies That Aren't Too Scary," 29 Oct. 2018 Another classic, but this one is a non-controversial pick because those gremlins are menacing AF. Joyce Bautista Ferrari, Marie Claire, "The Best Horror Movies That Aren't Too Scary," 29 Oct. 2018 The film does land a few, including a primo gag that involves gremlins running a nightmarish airline. Barbara Vandenburgh, azcentral, "Monsters go on vacation in 'Hotel Transylvania 3'," 12 July 2018 Overall, mechanical problems — whether faulty transmissions, or squeaks, rattles and wind noise — have largely vanished, according to Power, with electronic gremlins the top source of consumer complaints. NBC News, "South Korean cars rank highest for quality in new survey — but Detroit isn't far behind," 20 June 2018 That’s the anti-charm of these trucks, the myriad potential electrical gremlins on obsolete out-of-production components. Popular Mechanics, "My Ride: 1991 Land Rover Ranger Rover Classic," 18 Apr. 2018 The researchers tried to account for the usual gremlins that influence sleep: alcohol consumption, coffee intake, naps, smoking, shift work and similar factors, and used statistical methods to control for their effect. Ben Guarino,, "People who sleep in on weekends avoid dying young, study suggests," 23 May 2018 An exhaust fire ultimately put an end to that car's race on Sunday morning, with the sister machine retired shortly afterward due to electrical gremlins. Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica, "A packed grid of prototypes battles it at a record-breaking Daytona 24-hour race," 29 Jan. 2018

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

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First Known Use of gremlin

1941, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for gremlin

origin unknown

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Statistics for gremlin

Last Updated

31 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for gremlin

The first known use of gremlin was in 1941

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More Definitions for gremlin



English Language Learners Definition of gremlin

: a small imaginary creature that is blamed when something (such as a machine) does not work properly

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More from Merriam-Webster on gremlin

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with gremlin

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for gremlin

Spanish Central: Translation of gremlin

Nglish: Translation of gremlin for Spanish Speakers

Comments on gremlin

What made you want to look up gremlin? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


having no equal

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