I would like to know if "hob" can be considered as a prefix, and if yes, does it have some meaning, at least vague? I am thinking in particular about words hobgoblin, hobnail, hobnob...

  • 2
    It's General Reference (if you check an etymological dictionary) that all three examples here have different origins for the hob component. In hobgoblin it's a diminutive of Robin [Goodfellow]. In hobnail, it's obscure, but probably related to hub [part of a fireplace/stove]. And hobnob is a weird reduplication apparently based on (or at least, meaning something like) have/not have, give and take. Oct 27, 2014 at 14:45
  • @FumbleFingers It’s certainly not General Reference for an English language learner to go researching and comparing etymologies, but I’ll join you in your close-vote since etymology is itself generally off-topic here. Oct 27, 2014 at 19:57
  • This question appears to be off-topic because it is about etymology and would perhaps be better suited for ELU. Oct 27, 2014 at 20:01
  • 5
    I don't see that this is off-topic; the poster noticed a possible prefix and couldn't figure out whether it was a real, productive prefix or not. Seems like a good question to me.
    – Hellion
    Oct 27, 2014 at 20:23

1 Answer 1


Fun question!

In general, "hob" shouldn't be considered one prefix. In the first two cases you list, "hob" is actually two different prefixes. The "hob" in "hobgoblin" is a colloquial synonym for "Robert". The "hob" in "hobnail" comes from the term for a blunt projection of some sort

In the third case, I don't believe "hob" is a prefix at all, since "hobnob" is a combination of two verbs. Here, "hob" comes from the verb "to have."

Source: comparison of etymological dictionary entries for each word (in particular etymonline.com)


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