hob·​gob·​lin | \ ˈhäb-ˌgäb-lən How to pronounce hobgoblin (audio) \

Definition of hobgoblin

1 : a mischievous goblin

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What's the difference between a goblin and a hobgoblin?

While a goblin is often portrayed in folklore as a grotesque, evil, and malicious creature, a hobgoblin tends to traffic more in mischief than malice. (The character Puck in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream might be regarded as a hobgoblin.) First appearing in English in the early 16th century, hobgoblin combined hob, a word meaning "sprite" or "elf" that derived from Hobbe, a nickname for Robert, with goblin a word ultimately from the Greek word kobalos, meaning "rogue." American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson famously applied the word's extended sense in his essay Self-Reliance: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines."

Examples of hobgoblin in a Sentence

intimidated by the hobgoblins of etiquette in Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, Puck is a hobgoblin who plays pranks such as spoiling milk and tripping old ladies
Recent Examples on the Web Such hobgoblins of Hamilton’s imagination bear an eerie resemblance to the current occupant of the White House, with his tweets, double talk and inflammatory rhetoric at rallies. Ron Chernow, Twin Cities, 21 Oct. 2019 Nothing says Happy Halloween like a scary hobgoblin, all scowls and just looking for trouble. Woman's Day Staff, Woman's Day, 9 Sep. 2019 This fascination tells us more about ourselves than Sosa, who is demonstrating that foolish consistency said to be the hobgoblin of little minds. Phil Rosenthal, chicagotribune.com, 29 June 2018 Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote. Robert Krier, sandiegouniontribune.com, 7 June 2018 The witches used some as nests, too, leaving them for hobgoblins to sleep in. New York Times, 21 May 2018 God has His own Treblinka, with devils, hobgoblins, demons, angels of death. Ben Taub, The New Yorker, 30 Apr. 2018 The primrose path to relevance has been strewn with injuries and other baseball hobgoblins. Richard Fitch, Cincinnati.com, 27 Apr. 2018 Alternate realities have become hobgoblins of our time. Carolina A. Miranda, latimes.com, 13 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'hobgoblin.' 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 hobgoblin

1530, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for hobgoblin

hob entry 1

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The first known use of hobgoblin was in 1530

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Dictionary Entries Near hobgoblin

hob ferret



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Cite this Entry

“Hobgoblin.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hobgoblin. Accessed 16 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for hobgoblin



English Language Learners Definition of hobgoblin

: an ugly or evil creature that plays tricks in children's stories
: something that causes fear or worry


hob·​gob·​lin | \ ˈhäb-ˌgä-blən How to pronounce hobgoblin (audio) \

Kids Definition of hobgoblin

1 : a mischievous elf

More from Merriam-Webster on hobgoblin

Nglish: Translation of hobgoblin for Spanish Speakers


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