Halfling is another name for J. R. R. Tolkien's hobbit, a fictional race found in some fantasy novels and games. They are often depicted as similar to humans except about half as tall. Dungeons & Dragons began using the name halfling as an alternative to hobbit for legal reasons. Halfling characters have appeared in various tabletop and video games. Halflings have long been one of the playable humanoid races in Dungeons & Dragons.
Originally, halfling comes from the Scots word hauflin, meaning an awkward rustic teenager, who is neither man nor boy, and so half of both. Another word for halfling is hobbledehoy or hobby. This usage of the word pre-dates both The Hobbit and Dungeons & Dragons. The German surname Helbling has a similar origin.
Some fantasy stories use the term halfling to describe a person born of a human parent and a parent of another race, often a female human and a male elf. Terry Brooks describes characters such as Shea Ohmsford from his Shannara series as a halfling of elf–human parentage. This kind of character is elsewhere called a half-elf and is distinct from the fantasy race known as halflings. In Jack Vance's Lyonesse series of novels, "halfling" is a generic term for beings such as fairies, trolls and ogres, who are composed of both magical and earthly substances.
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- Vance, Jack (1983). Lyonesse: Book I: Suldrun's Garden. Grafton Books. p. Glossary II: The Fairies. ISBN 0-586-06027-8.