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From hob (elf, from Hob, a variant of Rob, short for Robin Goodfellow, an elf in German folklore) +‎ goblin.


hobgoblin (plural hobgoblins)

  1. A small, ugly goblin that makes trouble for humans. [from 1520s]
    • 1837, Albany Fonblanque, England Under Seven Administrations, volume 1, page 98:
      A M. Berbiguier lately published an elaborate work, in three huge volumes, in which he demonstrated the existence of hobgoblins, described the proper manner of capturing and securing them, and took credit to himself for his zeal for the benefit of mankind, in allowing no day to pass without imprisoning, with his own hands, at least thirty hobgoblins. A writer of biographical notices of contemporary authors, who believed neither in M. Berbiguier's manner of catching hobgoblins nor in the existence of hobgoblins did not scruple to say that M. Berbiguier was mad, and upon this M. Berbiguier brought his action for libel; but unluckily, together with his action, he brought himself into Court, and established in a very few words the truth of the libel.
    • 2005, Scott Harper, Winter's Rite, page 142:
      The eyes blinked out and he heard a faint grunt, followed by the sounds of the Hobgoblin scrambling further back into the tunnel, away from the faint sunlight and the Ur'hunglav's domain.
    • 2007, “Introduction: Phonoplay: Recasting Film Music”, in Daniel Goldmark, Lawrence Kramer, Richard D. Leppert, editors, Beyond the Soundtrack: Representing Music in Cinema, page 1:
      The monster goes unrecognized because he looks like a harmless, pudgy nobody rather than like a hobgoblin. But he reveals his hobgoblin nature through music.
  2. (by extension) A source of dread, fear or apprehension; a bugbear.
    • 1841, Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance”, in Essays: First Series:
      A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do.
    • 2004, James Mulvihill, Upstart Talents: Rhetoric and the Career of Reason in English Romantic Disccourse 1790-1820, page 55:
      Under "Fallacies of Danger," then, is listed the subhead of "The Hobgoblin Argument, or, No Innovation, in which the hobgoblin in question is anarchy; which tremendous spectre has for its forerunner the monster innovation." A hot button like this would presumably elicit a visceral response even from Hamilton whose aversion to the hobgoblin of parliamentary reform was apparently his sole unreasoning reflex.
    • 2011, John Mueller, Mark G. Stewart, Terror, Security, and Money: Balancing the Risks, Benefits, and Costs of Homeland Security, page 190:
      However, the public seems to have been able to retain much of its sense of alarm about internal attacks even when the al-Qaeda hobgoblin doesn't actually carry any out.


  • (hostile supernatural creature): See goblin

Derived terms[edit]




hobgoblin m (plural hobgoblins)

  1. hobgoblin (mischievous goblin)