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A wight (Old English: wiht) is a mythical sentient being, often undead.[1][2]

In its original use the word wight described a living human being,[3] but has come to be used in fictional works in the fantasy genre to describe certain immortal beings. An example of this use occurs in William Morris's translation of the Grettis Saga, where haugbui is translated as "barrow-wight". Wights also feature in J. R. R. Tolkien's world of Middle-earth, especially in The Lord of the Rings, and in George R. R. Martin's novel series A Song of Ice and Fire[4] and HBO television series Game of Thrones. Since its 1974 inclusion in the RPG Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), it has become a recurring form of undead in other fantasy games and mods, such as Vampire: The Masquerade.[5] and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

Examples in classic English literature and poetry[edit]

The Reeve's Tale, (1387–1400), line 4236:
"For [Aleyn] had swonken al the longe nyght,
And seyde, 'Fare weel, Malyne, sweete wight!'"
The Monk's Tale, (1387–1400), line 380:
"She kept her maidenhood from every wight
To no man deigned she for to be bond."
The Book of the Duchess, (1387–1400), line 579:
"Worste of alle wightes."
Prologue of The Knight, (1387–1400), line 72–73:
"Ne neuere yet no vileynye he sayde
In al his lyf vnto no manere wight.
He was a verray parfit gentil knyght."
The House of Fame, (1379–1380), line 1830–1831:
"We ben shrewes, every wight,
And han delyt in wikkednes."

German Wicht[edit]

A similar change of meaning can be seen in the German cognate Wicht, meaning a living human being, generally rather small, poor or miserable man (not woman). The word is somewhat old-fashioned in today's language, but it is still used and readily recognized in everyday speech.

The diminutive Wichtel refers to beings in folklore and fantasy, generally small, and often helpful, dwelling in or near human settlements, secretly doing work and helping the humans, somewhat similar to the more specific Heinzelmännchen. Wichtel in this sense is recorded since the Middle Ages. Today, Wichtel is more often used than Wicht.

Dutch wicht[edit]

The word wicht can be used to refer, in a neutral way, to any woman. It is not used to refer to men.

Booswicht (literally Evil – Being) matching 'villain', can be used to describe both men and women.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Wight". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. 1974.
  2. ^ Hoad, T. F., ed. (1996). "Wight". The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. Retrieved May 19, 2010.
  3. ^ "Wight". Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary (1974 ed.). Merriam-Webster. 1974.
  4. ^ Martin. "Chapter 52: Jon". A Game of Thrones. pp. 533–536, 545–548.
  5. ^ Sins of the blood. McCoy, Angel., White Wolf Publishing. Clarkston, GA: White Wolf Pub. 2001. pp. 9, 17–24. ISBN 158846217X. OCLC 62150117.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link) CS1 maint: others (link)