- You say, ‘I've never seen any imps, sprites or goblins in this whole neighborhood!’
- On Thursday night, we will all answer the door to find assorted little devils, imps and ghosts thrusting forward a bag half filled with processed sugar to the cry of ‘Trick or treat’.
- I looked at the tracks and saw that little goblins, imps, fairies, and sprites had been in my house.
- The latter turned into mischief night: ‘a night supposed by the imps of mischief (rough youths) to be, under some old law or tradition, theirs to do as they wish with’.
- The director steered clear of portraying him as a cheeky imp and wisely made him a nameless creep.
- Lucy was the youngest of five daughters and was described by her family as a ‘mischievous little imp with a cheeky smile’.
verb[with object] Back to top
Old English impa, impe 'young shoot, scion', impian 'to graft', based on Greek emphuein 'to implant'. In late Middle English, the noun denoted a descendant, especially of a noble family, and later a child of the devil or a person regarded as such; hence a ‘little devil’ or mischievous child (early 17th century).
Plants were the original imps. The word goes back to Greek phuein ‘to plant’. The Old English sense ‘a young shoot of a plant’ became ‘a descendant, especially of a noble family’ in the late Middle Ages, and from there developed into ‘a child of the devil’. Mischievous children began to be called imps in the mid 17th century. The Hillman company gave the name Imp to its new small car in 1963—it never matched the success of its rival, the Mini.