Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A tiny imaginary being in human form, depicted as clever, mischievous, and possessing magical powers.
  • n. Offensive Slang Used as a disparaging term for a homosexual man.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. the realm of faerie; enchantment, illusion.
  • n. A mythical being who had magical powers, known in many sizes and descriptions, although often depicted in modern illustrations only as small and spritely with gauze-like wings; A sprite.
  • n. a male homosexual, especially one who is effeminate.
  • n. A nature spirit revered in modern paganism.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Of or pertaining to fairies.
  • adj. Given by fairies.
  • n. Enchantment; illusion.
  • n. The country of the fays; land of illusions.
  • n. An imaginary supernatural being or spirit, supposed to assume a human form (usually diminutive), either male or female, and to meddle for good or evil in the affairs of mankind; a fay. See Elf, and Demon.
  • n. An enchantress.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Enchantment; magic.
  • n. An imaginary being or spirit, generally represented as of a diminutive and graceful human form, but capable of assuming any other, and as playing pranks, frolicsome, kindly, mischievous, or spiteful, on human beings or among themselves; a fay.
  • n. Fays collectively; fairy folk.
  • n. Fairy-land; elf-land.
  • n. An enchantress.
  • n. Synonyms Fairy, Elf, Fay; Sylph, Gnome; Jinn, Genie; Goblin. Fairy is the most general name for a diminutive imaginary being, generally in human form, sometimes very benevolent or inclined to teach moral lessons, as the fairy godmother of Cinderella; sometimes malevolent in the extreme, as in many fairy stories. Spenser took up the word in Chaucer's spelling, faerie or faery, and gave it an extended meaning, which is now commonly confined to that spelling and to his poem; the personages in “The Faery Queene” live in an unlocated region, essentially like the rest of the world, and are of heroic and occasionally supernatural powers; these personages he sometimes calls elves or elfins. In ordinary use an elf differs from a fairy only in generally seeming young, and being more often mischievous. Pope, in “The Rape of the Lock,” has given a definite cast to sylph and gnome; these two words are elsewhere often associated, gnomes having always been fabled as living in underground abodes, and especially as being the guardians of mines and quarries, while sylphs are denizens of the air. From this difference of place it has followed that gnomes are generally thought of with repugnance or dread, and sylphs, although of both sexes in literature, are popularly thought of as young, slender, and graceful females: hence the expression “a sylph-like form.” To Oriental imagination is due the jinn, djinn, or jinnee; the form genie is most vividly associated with the “Arabian Nights”: as, the genie of Aladdin's lamp; the genie that the fisherman let out of the bottle. A goblin is wicked, mischievous, or at least roguish, and frightful or grotesque in appearance. See the definitions of kobold, sylph, brownie, banshee, sprite, pixie, nixie, nymph, etc.
  • Pertaining to or in some manner connected with fairies; done by or coming from fairies. See phrases below.
  • Resembling in some way a fairy; hence, fanciful, graceful, whimsical, fantastic, etc.: as, fairy creatures or favors.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a small being, human in form, playful and having magical powers
  • n. offensive term for an openly homosexual man

Etymologies

Middle English fairie, fairyland, enchanted being, from Old French faerie, from fae, fairy, from Vulgar Latin Fāta, goddess of fate, from Latin fātum, fate; see fate.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English fairie, from Old French faerie, the -erie abstract of fae, from Vulgar Latin Fāta ("goddess of fate"), from Latin fātum ("fate") (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • IV. viii.12 (222,1) T. this great fairy] Mr. Upton has well observed, that _fairy_; which Dr. Warburton and sir T. Hanmer explain by

    Notes to Shakespeare, Volume III: The Tragedies

  • Unfortunately, the word fairy rhymes with St. Mary.

    Sleepwalk With Me

  • Not surprisingly, perhaps, the word "fairy tale" keeps popping up whenever the director describes his latest film, "Drive," his first venture in filmmaking outside of Denmark.

    Refn Revs Into High Gear With 'Drive'

  • The wedding will be a bright spot for an institution that has had a rough time during the 30 years since Charles made that same trip from the abbey to the palace with Diana Spencer, a bride who seemed so innocent and dazzling that the TV commentators could freely spout the word "fairy tale" without being accused of using cliches.

    NPR Topics: News

  • The back story begins with BreAnn Brown, the figure skater playing the title fairy, sitting on an intricately designed giant mushroom in the middle of the ice.

    Victorville Daily Press :

  • In June, officials brought back the city mascot, Miyary—a fairy in a crown of flowers whose name is derived from Utsunomiya and the word "fairy"—and launched an official blog featuring the character at various local events.

    City in Japan Tries New Tack on Old Problem

  • WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And happening now: Bill Clinton returns to what he calls a fairy tale.

    CNN Transcript Jan 11, 2008

  • And coming up in the second half of RELIABLE SOURCES, Bill Clinton blasts the press for perpetuating what he calls a fairy tale.

    CNN Transcript Jan 13, 2008

  • Then he is what they call a fairy man, a person in league with fairies and spirits, and able to work much harm by supernatural means, on which account they hold him in great awe; he is, moreover, a mighty strong and tall fellow.

    Lavengro

  • After telling the story, which he entitles a fairy story, he makes the following suggestive comments: --

    Welsh Fairy-Tales and Other Stories

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