Word of the Day : October 31, 2010

hobgoblin

play
noun HAHB-gahb-lin

Definition

1 : a mischievous goblin

2 : a source of fear, perplexity, or harassment

Did You Know?

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."

Word Trivia: What word for a small dog breed with short fur, tightly curled tails, and wide wrinkled faces comes from an old word for hobgoblin? The answer is ...


Examples

Max was convinced that hobgoblins had taken over his computer, which was why it was flashing garbled error messages.

"For one thing, the turtle was an enjoyable hobgoblin for the kids who swim in the lake. They used to stand atop the floating dock looking out anxiously to see if the turtle was nearby and it added an element of chills to an otherwise placid swimming experience." --From an article by Scott Gerschwer in the Redding Pilot (Connecticut), September 9, 2010




Podcast


More Words of the Day

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!