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See also: Sandman


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From sand +‎ -man. The mythological sense may be from German Sandmann, Sandmännchen, as it is apparently first attested in English in the context of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s novella The Sandman (1816). The German is attested in the relevant sense since at least the mid-18th century.


  • (UK, US) IPA(key): /ˈsænd.mæn/
  • (file)


sandman (plural sandmen)

  1. (folklore) A figure that brings sleep and dreams by sprinkling magical sand into people's eyes. [from early 19th c.]
    • 1827, “On the Supernatural in Composition; and particularly on the Works of Ernest Theodore William Hoffman”, in Museum of Foreign Literature and Science, volume 11, page 458:
      This then was the Sandman; but what was his occupation, and what was his purpose ? The nursery-maid being applied to, gave a nursery-maid's explanation, that the Sandman was a bad man, who flung sand in the eyes of little children who did not go to bed.
  2. Used as a symbol of the passage of time toward death. (Can we add an example for this sense?)
  3. (obsolete) A seller of sand.
    • 1811, Arabian Nights' Entertainments, Consisting of One Thousand and One Stories, Told by the Sultaness of the Indies, Henry Mozley (publ.), page 114.
      While I was out, a sandman, who sells scouring sand, which women use to clean the baths with, passed through our street, and called, Any sand ho !