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"dwarf-like earth-dwelling spirit," 1712, from French gnome, from Modern Latin gnomus, used 16c. in a treatise by Paracelsus, who gave the name pigmaei or gnomi to elemental earth beings, possibly from Greek *genomos "earth-dweller" (cf. thalassonomos "inhabitant of the sea"). 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 German and Swiss folklore dwarfs. Garden figurines first imported to England late 1860s from Germany.
An anonymous expert, esp a statistician or an industrious observer of trends; bean counter: The Gnomes of Baseball/ the inhibitions of sports announcers whose minds have been studied by small-town station managers and network gnomes
[mid-1960s+; the term is being extended from the first use, gnomes of Zurich, coined in 1964 and designating the faceless little men who take account of and in part determine the curiosities of the international money market]
in European folklore, dwarfish, subterranean goblin or earth spirit who guards mines of precious treasures hidden in the earth. He is represented in medieval mythologies as a small, physically deformed (usually hunchbacked) creature resembling a dry, gnarled old man. Gob, the king of the gnome race, ruled with a magic sword and is said to have influenced the melancholic temperament of man.