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 traditionally regarded in folklore as a grotesque, evil, and malicious creature, a hobgoblin tends to be more about creating mischief. (The character of Puck from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream might be regarded as one.) First appearing in English in 1530, hobgoblin combined goblin with hob, a word meaning "sprite" or "elf" that derived from Hobbe, a nickname for Robert. Goblin derived via Middle English and Medieval Latin from the Greek word kobalos, meaning "rogue." The 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, "Ron Chernow: Hamilton pushed for a powerful president — and for impeachment powers," 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, "Hobgoblin Pumpkin," 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, "Sammy Sosa's PED story doesn't change, so why are we still writing it?," 29 June 2018 Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote. Robert Krier, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Pleasant weather, little June gloom expected for next week," 7 June 2018 The witches used some as nests, too, leaving them for hobgoblins to sleep in. New York Times, "Every Cell in Your Body Has the Same DNA. Except It Doesn’t.," 21 May 2018 God has His own Treblinka, with devils, hobgoblins, demons, angels of death. Ben Taub, The New Yorker, "The Boarder," 30 Apr. 2018 The primrose path to relevance has been strewn with injuries and other baseball hobgoblins. Richard Fitch, Cincinnati.com, "Guest TML: Cincinnati Reds' rebuild is right where it should be," 27 Apr. 2018 Alternate realities have become hobgoblins of our time. Carolina A. Miranda, latimes.com, "How images — sometimes manipulated and altered — are shaping the seething world of our politics," 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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Cite this Entry

“Hobgoblin.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hobgoblin. Accessed 26 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for hobgoblin


How to pronounce hobgoblin (audio)

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

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Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for hobgoblin

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