1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gnomes

GNOMES (Fr. gnomes, Ger. Gnomen), in folk-lore, the name now commonly given to the earth and mountain spirits who are supposed to watch over veins of precious metals and other hidden treasures. They are usually pictured as bearded dwarfs clad in brown close-fitting garments with hoods. The word “gnome” as applied to these is of comparatively modern and somewhat uncertain origin. By some it is said to have been coined by Paracelsus (so Hatzfeld and Darmesteter, Dictionnaire), who uses Gnomi as a synonym of Pygmaei, from the Greek γνώμη, intelligence. The New English Dictionary, however, suggests a derivation from genomus, i.e. a Greek type γηνόμος, “earth-dweller,” on the analogy of θαλασσονόμος, “dwelling in the sea,” adding, however, that though there is no evidence that the term was not used before Paracelsus, it is possibly “a mere arbitrary invention, like so many others found in Paracelsus” (N.E.D. s.v.).