Wight is a Middle English word, from Old English wiht, and used to describe a creature or living sentient being. It is akin to Old High German wiht, meaning a creature or thing.[1][2]

In its original usage the word wight described a living human being.[3] More recently, the word has been used within the fantasy genre of literature to describe undead or wraith-like creatures: corpses with a part of their decayed soul still in residence, often draining life from their victims. Notable examples of this include the undead Barrow-Wights from the works of J. R. R. Tolkien and the wights of Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game.

The English word is cognate with other Germanic words like Dutch wicht, German Wicht, Old Norse vættir, Swedish vätte, Danish vætte. Modern High German Wicht means 'small person, dwarf,' and also 'unpleasant person,' while in Low German the word means 'girl.' The Wicht, Wichtel or Wichtelchen of Germanic folklore is most commonly translated into English as an imp, a small, shy character who often does helpful domestic chores when nobody is looking (as in the Tale of the Cobbler's Shoes). These terms are not related to the English word witch. In Scandinavian folklore, too, wights are elusive creatures not unlike elves, capable of mischief as well as of help.

In literature and culture

Examples of the word used in classic English literature and poetry:

  • Edmund Spenser (1590–1596), The Faerie Queene, I.i.6.8-9:
    "That every wight to shrowd it did constrain,
    And this fair couple eke to shroud themselues were fain."
  • Washington Irving (1820) The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
    "In this by-place of nature there abode, in a remote period of American history, that is to say, some thirty years since, a worthy wight of the name of Ichabod Crane, who sojourned, or, as he expressed it, "tarried," in Sleepy Hollow, for the purpose of instructing the children of the vicinity."
  • Ubisoft (2006) Heroes of Might and Magic 5
    In the game wights are the 6th tier creature to the Necropolis faction. They have high health and attack points and even have an ability called Harm Touch where they can attack and kill at least 1 enemy every time with no retaliation.
  • Boris Sagal, The Omega Man
    The 'nocturnals' of Sagal's 1971 motion picture The Omega Man could be considered a filmic example of the wight.

See also


  1. ^ Merriam-Webster, 1974.
  2. ^ T. F. HOAD. "wight." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. 1996. Retrieved May 19, 2010 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O27-wight.html
  3. ^ Wight, in the Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, 1974 edition.
  4. ^ Gygax, Gary, and Dave Arneson. Dungeons & Dragons (3-Volume Set) (TSR, 1974)

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Wight — Wight, n. [OE. wight, wiht, a wight, a whit, AS. wiht, wuht, a creature, a thing; skin to D. wicht a child, OS. & OHG. wiht a creature, thing, G. wicht a creature, Icel. v[ae]tt? a wight, v[ae]tt? a whit, Goth. wa[ i]hts, wa[ i]ht, thing; cf.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Wight — bezeichnet: Isle of Wight, eine britische Insel Wight ist der Familienname folgender Personen: James Alfred Wight (1916–1995), englischer Tierarzt und Schriftsteller, siehe James Herriot Paul Wight (* 1972), US amerikanischer Wrestler Robert… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Wight — Wight, a. [OE. wight, wiht, probably of Scand. origin; cf. Icel. v[=i]gr in fighting condition, neut. v[=i]gh ??? v[=i]g war, akin to AS. w[=i]g See {Vanquish}.] Swift; nimble; agile; strong and active. [Obs. or Poetic] [1913 Webster] T is full… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Wight — puede designar: Isla de Wight, condado insular del sur de Inglaterra. Robert Wight (1796 1872), botánico escocés. Esta página de desambiguación cataloga artículos relacionados con el mismo título. Si llegaste aquí a través de …   Wikipedia Español

  • Wight — Wight, n. Weight. [Obs.] [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Wight — →↑Isle of Wight …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • wight — O.E. wiht living being, creature, from P.Gmc. *wekhtiz (Cf. O.S. wiht thing, demon, Du. wicht a little child, O.H.G. wiht thing, creature, demon, Ger. Wicht creature, infant, O.N. vettr thing, creature, Swed. vätte sp …   Etymology dictionary

  • wight — wight; wight·ly; …   English syllables

  • Wight — (spr. weit), Insel im Kanal, zur engl. Grafsch. Hampshire gehörig, 8 km südwestl. von Portsmouth, 37 km lg., bis 21 km br., 378 qkm, (1891) 78.718 E., von Kreidehügeln durchzogen (bis 235 m hoch); Hauptstadt Newport, Seebäder. – Vgl. Clinch (engl …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Wight — (Uëit), engl. Insel im Kanale, Portsmouth gegenüber, fest durch ihre steile Kreideküste und Klippen od. durch künstliche Werke, hat ein mildes, gesundes Klima, ist wie ein Garten angebaut, mit Landhäusern übersäet, hat 46000 E. auf 62/5 QMl. Der… …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • Wight — (île de) île britannique de la Manche; 381 km²; 126 600 hab.; ch. l. Newport. élevage, tourisme. Navigation de plaisance …   Encyclopédie Universelle

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