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silky1's avatar

Gnomes where did they get their name?

Asked by silky1 (1505points) June 13th, 2011

I was just wondering how gnomes came to be and who thought to name them gnomes?.

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Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Boring, but here it is:

The word comes from Renaissance Latin gnomus, which first appears in the works of 16th Century Swiss alchemist Paracelsus. He is perhaps deriving the term from Latin gēnomos (itself representing a Greek γη-νομος, literally “earth-dweller”). In this case, the omission of the ē is, as the OED calls it, a blunder. Alternatively, the term may be an original invention of Paracelsus.

Paracelsus uses Gnomi as a synonym of Pygmæi.[3], and classifies them as earth elementals. He describes them as two spans high, very reluctant to interact with humans, and able to move through solid earth as easily as humans move through air.[4][5])

The chthonic spirit has precedents in numerous ancient and medieval mythologies, often guarding mines and precious underground treasures, notably in the Germanic dwarves and the Greek Chalybes, Telchines or Dactyls.[2] Source

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Berserker's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer Damn, nice. This reminds me, I’ve seen the word gnome spelled as ’‘knome’’ in a video game before. Is that related to anything, or do you think maybe they just spelled it like that to make sure people wouldn’t pronounce the G? (but then they’d pronounce the K…) We’re talking old video games where Japanese to English translation was quite an issue…

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@Symbeline Hmm, good question. I thought I had seen it spelled with a ‘k’ as well, but an internet search didn’t provide any useful results. I think that either way it is spelled, the ‘g’ and ‘k’ would be silent. In the video game, it might have been a misspelling or a way to differentiate the character(s) from the garden variety (pun intended).

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