from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun An imaginary gnomelike creature to whom mechanical problems, especially in aircraft, are attributed.
  • noun A maker of mischief.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A mythical creature reputed to be mechanically inclined and mischievously inclined to damage or dismantle machinery.
  • noun by extension Any mysterious, unknown source of trouble or mischief.

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

  • noun (folklore) fairies that are somewhat mischievous


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

[Perhaps blend of Irish gruaimín, bad-tempered little fellow (from Middle Irish gruaim, gloom, surliness) and goblin.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Possibly from Old English grëmian ("to vex", "to anger"), related to German grämen and Swedish gräma ("to grieve").



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  • Looking at the WordNet definition, I wonder what the accepted scale of fairy mischievousness might be...

    March 10, 2008

  • Do you think a gremlin is more or less michievious than a sprite? What about a pooka? I would have thought pookas were pretty darned michievious.

    March 10, 2008

  • Boggarts, poltergeists... It's a tough one. I'll bet they have bragging competitions about this. 'Well, I'm Changeling Orchestration Co-ordinator for Upper Taunton...'

    March 10, 2008

  • Some lady who is into Matrix Energetics told me she saw a gremlin sitting with a needle and thread, sewing and repairing my morphic field and then painting it over with a big brush and applying some clear sealant. Well, that is a nice helpful gremlin apparently. ;)

    September 8, 2008

  • Was AHD written by pilots or is it suggesting the origin of that usage (definition 1) was in aviation?

    September 20, 2011

  • Wasn't it? I thought it was some pilot joke from WWII or something.

    September 20, 2011

  • Oh--wait. Do you object to the form of the definition?

    September 20, 2011

  • It just seems to me that if I asked a layman, in a quiet moment when he wasn't busy laying, for a definition I probably wouldn't get the 'especially in aircraft' bit.

    September 20, 2011

  • Well, for myself, I'd prefer a definition that very clearly states when it is appropriate to allow them access to to food, water, and sunlight.

    September 20, 2011