Possibly from Middle English gremly (“terrible”) (compare Old English gremman, gremian (“to provoke; irritate; anger; vex”)) + -lin, -ling; related to German grämen, Swedish gräma (“to grieve”). Compare goblin.
gremlin (plural gremlins)
- A mythical creature reputed to be mischievously inclined to damage or dismantle machinery.
- (by extension) Any mysterious, unknown source of trouble or mischief.
- We rechecked everything, and we suspect gremlins in the database.
- (surfing, slang) A young inexperienced surfer.