gnome

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gnome1 / nōm/ • n. a legendary dwarfish creature supposed to guard the earth's treasures underground. ∎ inf. a small ugly person. ∎ inf. a person regarded as having secret or sinister influence, esp. in financial matters: the gnomes of Zurich. ∎  (also garden gnome) a small garden ornament in the form of a bearded man with a pointed hat. DERIVATIVES: gnom·ish adj. gnome2 • n. a short statement encapsulating a general truth; a maxim.

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gnome a legendary dwarfish creature supposed to guard the earth's treasures underground; now popularly represented in a small garden ornament in the form of a bearded man with a pointed hat.

The word is recorded from the mid 17th century, and comes via French from modern Latin gnomus, a word used by Paracelsus as a synonym of Pygmaeus, denoting a mythical race of very small people said to inhabit parts of Ethiopia and India.
gnomes of Zurich an informal term for Swiss financiers, regarded as having a sinister influence; the phrase was popularized by the British Labour statesman Harold Wilson (1916–95).

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