One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
In Scandinavian folklore: a kind of spirit, similar to a brownie or goblin, which frequents barns, stables, and other buildings.
Mid 19th century; earliest use found in Thomas Keightley (1789–1872), historian and author. From Danish nisse and Swedish regional nisse, pet-form of the male forename Nils, shortened form of Nikolaus, the name of St Nicholas; this name replaced earlier Scandinavian names for this spirit, after German uses of a shortened form of the name Nikolaus for a being which brought gifts to good children or scolded naughty children on the eve of St Nicholas' Day.
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