a grotesque sprite or elf that is mischievous or malicious toward people.

1300–50; Middle English gobelin < Middle French < Middle High German kobold goblin; see kobold

Goblin, gnome, gremlin refer to supernatural beings thought to be malevolent to people. Goblins are demons of any size, usually in human or animal form, that are supposed to assail, afflict, and even torture human beings: “Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damn'd, …” (Shak. Hamlet I, iv ). Gnomes are small beings, like ugly little old men, who live in the earth, guarding mines, treasures, etc. They are mysteriously malevolent and terrify human beings by causing dreadful mishaps to occur. Gremlins are thought to disrupt machinery and are active in modern folklore.
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World English Dictionary
goblin (ˈɡɒblɪn)
(in folklore) a small grotesque supernatural creature, regarded as malevolent towards human beings
[C14: from Old French, from Middle High German kobolt; compare cobalt]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

c.1327, from O.Fr. gobelin (12c., as Gobelinus, the name of a spirit haunting the region of Evreux), of uncertain origin, perhaps related to Ger. kobold (see cobalt), or from M.L. cabalus, from Gk. kobalos "rogue, knave," kobaloi "wicked spirits invoked by rogues." Another
suggestion is that it is a dim. of the proper name Gobel.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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