lep·re·chaun (lĕprĭ-kŏn′, -kôn′)
In Irish folklore, a mischievous elflike creature or fairy who grants wishes or reveals the location of hidden treasure when captured.
[Irish Gaelic leipreachán, from Middle Irish lupracá;n, luchrupán, luchorpán : probably alteration (influenced by lú-, small; see legwh- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots, and corp, body, from Latin corpus; see kwrep- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots) of Latin lupercus, member of the luperci, a group of Roman priests who during the Lupercalia ran up the Palatine from the Lupercal, the cave where a wolf suckled Romulus and Remus (probably from lupus, wolf; see wkwo- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots) + Irish -án, diminutive suffix. For the semantic development from luperci to leprechaun, it appears that the accounts of the luperci in classical texts were misunderstood by early Irish scholars, who believed the luperci to be a race of wolfmen and interpreted their run up the hill to be an escape from the Biblical flood by taking refuge in Ireland. This conception of a race of nonhuman beings inhabiting Ireland evolved into the folklore of the leprechaun..]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.