Word Origin & History
"dwarf-like earth-dwelling spirit," 1712, from Fr. gnome, from L. gnomus, used 16c. in a treatise by Paracelsus, who gave the name pigmaei or gnomi to elemental earth beings, possibly from Gk. *genomos "earth-dweller." A less-likely suggestion is that Paracelsus based it on the homonym that means "intelligence"
(preserved in gnomic
). Popular in children's literature 19c. as a name for red-capped Ger. and Swiss folklore dwarfs. Garden figurines first imported to England late 1860s from Germany.