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1846, coined by antiquarian William J. Thoms (1803-1885) as an Anglo-Saxonism (replacing popular antiquities) and first published in the "Athenaeum" of Aug. 22, 1846, from folk + lore. Old English folclar meant "homily."
This word revived folk in a modern sense of "of the common people, whose culture is handed down orally," and opened up a flood of compound formations, e.g. folk art (1892), folk-hero (1874), folk-medicine (1877), folk-tale/folk tale (1850; Old English folctalu meant "genealogy"), folk-song (1847), folk singer (1876), folk-dance (1877).
Traditional stories and legends, transmitted orally (rather than in writing) from generation to generation. The stories of Paul Bunyan are examples of American folklore.