• goblin •
gahb-lin • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: Grotesque, evil folkloric creature.
Notes: We have our choice of adjectives meaning "like goblins": goblined or goblinesque. Goblinism is the belief that goblins really do exist. A hobgoblin is less frightening than a goblin, so it is often used amusingly.
In Play: We meet this word in fairy tales and in conversations with people who believe in such: "Marygrove bought a house with a basement that the neighbor said was home for several ghouls and goblins." Otherwise, it may be used figuratively to refer to the evils goblins are supposed to express: "Wall Street continues to be infested with the goblins of all financial institutions: volatility, inflation, recession, and so on and on."
Word History: The origin of today's Good Word remains a mystery. In Middle English it was gobelin, so speculation has it that the word taken from Old French where it is still very much alive today. That would have come from a post-Classical Latin word, cobalus or covalus "demon", which was borrowed from Greek kobalos "goblin", a word originally meaning "rogue, knave" + French -in, a suffix denoting a member of a group. This trail ends up in Greek, though. The suffix -in is more easily traced: French finally feminized it as -ine after Latin -ina and Greek -ine. It probably originated in the PIE word en "in", source of Albanian në "in", Latin in "in", English in, Greek en "in", Russian v(n) "in(to)",and Armenian i "in" (from the original in). (Now, lest the goblins get us, a word or two of gratitude to Ana Jung, who noticed the omission of today's mysterious Good Word from our dictionary and shared her concern with us.)
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