The word pixie was first used in a 1542 translation of Erasmus's Apophthegmes, when it was described as something similar to hobgoblins. The etymology is uncertain, but there's certainly some fascinating speculation. It might come from the dialectal Swedish noun pyks, which meant "small goblin" (there are similar words in Scots and Norwegian), but the Oxford English Dictionary calls that connection "entirely wanting" in evidence. It seems more likely that pixie is from some obscure Cornish word, because early uses of the term were disproportionately from southwestern English (this would make it Celtic, not Germanic as the other theory would posit). According to Google NGram Viewer, literary usage of pixie over time was pretty sparse until a rapid increase in attestations around the turn of the twenty-first century, probably due to popularization through popular children's books.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.