Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A Dictionary Of Fairies” as Want to Read:
Blank 133x176
A Dictionary Of Fairies
Katharine Mary Briggs
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A Dictionary Of Fairies

4.26  ·  Rating Details  ·  903 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
Perhaps she should have called it "Everything You Wanted to Know about Fairies, but Were Afraid to Ask." This book covers every type of "little people" from abbey lubbers to Young Tam Lin. Not just the tiny, translucent winged pixies of popular art, but brownies, goblins and bogies, even larger creatures like dragons and mermaids. Exhaustive in its coverage, while still en ...more
Hardcover, 481 pages
Published 1976 by Viking (first published January 1971)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A Dictionary Of Fairies, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about A Dictionary Of Fairies

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Mike (the Paladin)
This is a wonderful book and if you have any use for a reference book on fairies, folklore etc. then again...wonderful. If you write (as a lot of us here do) this is a treasure trove of information. If I could I'd buy a copy.

Unfortunately it's out of print and the least expensive copy I've been able to find is $100 (plus shipping and handling of course). I'll just have to keep my eyes open.

An interesting side note. In the edition I got out the library the illustration pages in the center of the
Maggie Stiefvater
THE definitive place to start on British fairy folklore. Is there anything else to say? I think not. An amazing read.

***wondering why all my reviews are five stars? Because I'm only reviewing my favorite books -- not every book I read. Consider a novel's presence on my Goodreads bookshelf as a hearty endorsement. I can't believe I just said "hearty." It sounds like a stew.****
Mary Catelli
An exhaustive treatment of the -- ehem -- Good Folk of the British Isles.

A lot of redundancies because all sorts of creatures reappeared, slightly different, under different names, sometimes in very limited locales, or even the proper name of a single being. (Sometimes very slightly different names -- not necessarily related to how similar they are in other respects.)

Covers a lot of folklore about the devils and death, as well, because of the strong connection between them and the fairies. (Graf
A wonderful compendium of the folkloric inhabitants of the British Isles.

In addition to entries about the Little People, there are also entries on certain folkloric motifs, such as Shapeshifting and Captives in Fairyland, and on prominent collectors of tales and writers upon the subject.

As well as the usual index and bibliography, the book also has an Index of Types and Motifs, by which folklore tales have been categorised, thus making it easy to compare similarities between stories which someti
Eric Orchard
The best source for fairies and strange creatures in literature and popular stories. Incredibly readable and bottomless inspiration.
Jun 18, 2008 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the only reference book I ever read cover to cover. I'm just saying: THIS IS THE ONLY REFERENCE BOOK I'VE READ COVER TO COVER!!!
Pippa DaCosta
Sep 01, 2014 Pippa DaCosta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I bought this as a 'one-click' second hand purchase, with no notion I was buying something with a soul. The pages are yellowed, and well-thumbed, and I noticed this edition was printed in the same year I was born. That evocative smell of 'old books' hits me when I flick from front to back. How many hands have held this book? How many stories were born from its pages? This book has its own story to tell, and it's not inside, but in the tangible, the weight, the smell. Like its contents, this book ...more
Aug 15, 2014 Emma marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Known in the UK as The Dictionary of Fairies, published by Penguin.
Fraser Sherman
Jul 22, 2014 Fraser Sherman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Folklore expert Briggs converts her research into a handy guide to British fae: spriggans, daione sidhe, kelpies, knockers, nuckelavee and others, all recorded here. This also covers themes (fairy thefts, virtues valued by fairies), a number of classic folk tales and profiles several prominent folklorists. If this is your sort of thing, you can't go wrong with this one.
Nov 23, 2014 Alex rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is good, but it focuses almost exclusively on the fairies of Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales. So while I love how in depth it is, the deepness of the research is focused on a relatively narrow subsection of folklore. A great resource, but only when you use it in a way that plays to the strengths of the book
Stephen Mullaney-Westwood
I say 'read' but it's one of those pick up when you need / want to books.... comprehensive and fascinating
very nice encyclopedia
Aug 08, 2009 Caleb rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Probably not a great idea to read straight through, given that it is an encyclopedia, and doing so took me forever and lead to a lot of dull passages, but it seems like a pretty good reference work, particularly since it covers folk fairy beliefs, tales and their tellers and collectors, rather than focusing on only one aspect of (mostly British) fairy tradition.

It's out of print now though, so apparently its publisher and/or the book market doesn't think quite so highly of it.
James T Kelly
Dec 02, 2011 James T Kelly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you have ever wanted to know anything about fairy folklore, this is the book to read. Briggs leaves no stone unturned, categorising even the most minor fairy, as well as tackling large concepts, other related folklore and literature too. The encyclopedic nature means you can return to it again and again, but if you have any interest in fairies at all I'd be willing to bet you'll read it cover to cover. I did! This book has been absolutely indispensable and one of my best purchases.
Laurel Norton
Feb 25, 2013 Laurel Norton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've had this book since high's my "go to" reference on all the words for "magical" beings, especially those residing on the British Isles. Fantastic folklore, and the histories of the beliefs. I have always love this book!
Jun 26, 2010 Tracey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book as a kid and have kept a copy for reference ever since. It's invaluable for anyone interested in folklore, covering a vast range of entities from gentle to malevolent, from beneficial to deadly.
Nov 22, 2013 Meghan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The primer for supernatural creatures.
A great starting place for all things faerie. Just in case you're getting lost in the yelling matches/debates in class over the faerie realms.
Aug 04, 2013 Lux rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A spectacular starting point for those interested in fairy tales and the origins of folklore. Like others have said, this is one of the only reference books I've read every single page of.
Dec 27, 2011 Jewels rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
Briggs provides anecdotes as well as descriptions of the immense variety of fairies and other mythological characters. Good reference book if you write fantasy or play RPGs.
Kalayna Price
Nov 04, 2011 Kalayna Price rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: research, folklore
The encyclopedic structure offers only tidbits for each folklore creature and custom listed, but it is a great starting point and the bibliography is invaluable.
John Shelley
Jun 09, 2009 John Shelley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the most complete reference work on British fairy lore, from a giant of 20th Century folklore research. Essential reading.
Heather Demetrios
Love, adore, love! A must-have for any writer of fantasy! Also, Maggie Stiefvater agrees with me.
Oct 11, 2010 Alison rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's easy to get lost in this book. I use it regularly for inspiration for my fairy tale maps.
A great guide to fairy lore from the Middle Ages to the present.
Feb 08, 2013 S. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As i believed, a must have in your collection if you can get it
Jacqueline Czel
Nov 17, 2012 Jacqueline Czel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent reference book for fantasy writers!
Hannah Harding-Minton
Valerie rated it liked it
Jul 24, 2016
laura. marked it as to-read
Jul 23, 2016
Tessa Land-Smith
Tessa Land-Smith rated it it was amazing
Jul 23, 2016
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Spirits, Fairies, Leprechauns, and Goblins: An Encyclopedia
  • The World Guide to Gnomes, Fairies, Elves and Other Little People
  • Encyclopedia of Things That Never Were: Creatures, Places, and People
  • At the Bottom of the Garden: A Dark History of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Nymphs, and Other Troublesome Things
  • Meeting the Other Crowd
  • The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries
  • The Dictionary of Imaginary Places: The Newly Updated and Expanded Classic
  • Fairies: Real Encounters With Little People
  • The Ancient Art of Faery Magick
  • Encyclopedia of Gods: Over 2,500 Deities of the World
  • The Secret Commonwealth Of Elves, Fauns And Fairies
  • A Dictionary of Angels: Including the Fallen Angels
  • The Fairy Bible: The Definitive Guide to the World of Fairies
  • The Secret Commonwealth: An Essay of the Nature and Actions of the Subterranean (and, for the Most Part) Invisible People, Heretofore Going under the Name of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies
  • Treasury of Irish Myth, Legend & Folklore
  • Scottish Folk and Fairy Tales
  • The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales
  • A Complete Guide to Faeries & Magical Beings: Explore the Mystical Realm of the Little People
Early Life
Katharine Briggs was born in Hampstead, London in 1898, and was the eldest of three sisters. The Briggs family, originally from Yorkshire, had built up a fortune in the 18th and 19th centuries through coal mining and owned a large colliery in Normanton, West Yorkshire. With such enormous wealth, Katharine and her family were able to live in luxury with little need to work. Briggs's fathe
More about Katharine Mary Briggs...

Share This Book