A gnome (or "Nisse") hiding behind a toadstool.German garden gnomeA replica of Lampy the Lamport gnome.From a catalogue of garden ornaments. 1910
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Garden Gnome

A gnome is a mythical creature characterized by its extremely small size and subterranean lifestyle. The word gnome is derived from the New Latin gnomus. more...

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It is often claimed to descend from the Greek gnosis, "knowledge", but more likely comes from genomos "earth-dweller", in which case the omission of e is, as the OED calls it, a blunder. Another possibility is that it comes from the Arabic نوم (Noum), which means sleep. It is also possible that Paracelsus simply made the word up.

Paracelsus includes gnomes in his list of elementals, as earth elementals. He describes them as two spans high, and very taciturn. Sometimes they are seen as a type of fairy, though at other times are seen as a distinct species in their own right.

There is some belief that Gnomes are in fact real, such as the Gnome sightings in Argentina, though these are disputed as hoaxes by skeptics.


Gnomes are traditionally thought of as being small, bearded and wearing pointed, colourful, conical hats. They live in natural areas close to the Earth and care for wildlife. They are more benevolent than other such folkloric creatures like goblins. This traditional view is supported in such fictional works as The Secret Book of Gnomes.

According to certain medieval beliefs, Gnomes were deformed, usually with a hunchback, and were led by their king, Gob, who ruled with a magic sword.

Garden Gnomes

The first garden gnomes were made in Gräfenroda, a town known for its ceramics in Thuringia, Germany in the mid-1800s. Phillip Griebel made terracotta animals as decorations, and produced gnomes based on local myths as a way for people to enjoy the stories of the gnomes' willingness to help in the garden at night. The garden gnome quickly spread across Germany and into France and England, and wherever gardening was a serious hobby. Gnome manufacture spread across Germany with numerous other large and small manufacturers coming into and out of the business, each one having its own particular style of design. World War II was hard on the industry and most producers gave up then. Griebel's descendants still make them and are the last of the German producers, all others having moved production to Poland or China.

Traditional gnomes are made from a terracotta clay slurry poured into molds. The gnome is removed from the mold, allowed to dry, and then fired in a kiln until it is hard. Once cooled the gnome is painted to the level of detail desired and sent to stores to be sold to consumers. More modern gnomes are made from resins and similar materials.

Read more at Wikipedia.org

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