AskDefine | Define kelpie

Dictionary Definition



1 (Scottish folklore) water spirit in the form of a horse that likes to drown its riders [syn: kelpy]
2 an Australian sheepdog with pointed ears

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. (Celtic folklore) A malevolent shapeshifting spirit, most often in the form of a horse, believed to haunt the rivers and lochs of Scotland.
  2. An Australian breed of sheepdog.

Extensive Definition

The kelpie is a supernatural shape-shifting water horse from Celtic folklore that is believed to haunt the rivers and lochs of Scotland and Ireland. Its hide was generally supposed to be black (though in some stories it was white), and will appear to be a lost pony, but can be identified by its constantly dripping mane. Its skin is like that of a seal but is deathly cold to the touch. In Orkney a similar creature was called the Nuggle, and in Shetland a similar creature was called the Shoopiltee, the Njogel, or the Tangi. On the Isle of Man it is known as the Cabbyl-Ushtey or the Glashtin. It also appears in Scandinavian folklore where in Sweden it is known by the name Bäckahästen, the brook horse. In Norway it is called nøkken, where the horse shape is often used, but is not its true form. In the Faroe Islands it is called Nykur and in Iceland it is called Nykur or Nennir. Another similar Scottish water horse is the Each uisge. The "Kelpie" was also know to lure humans into the water to kill and eat them. Commonly know as spirits of the dead, the kelpie itself was not kind at all.

Into the West

The film Into the West features a Kelpie. Ossie, the youngest of the two brothers, has a Kelpie come to him so as to unite the broken family of himself, his brother and father. Ossie imagines that the Kelpie is his mother's soul. The Kelpie is a white mare, who true to her nature, can jump amazing lengths and heights. Also true to her nature, she nearly lures Ossie to a watery grave, recalling the Kelpie legend as well as the legend of Ossian's Ride. However Ossie is saved by the ghost of his mother, and the love of his brother and father.

Alcoholic beverage

Kelpie is also the name of a seaweed ale brewed by the Heather Ale Company in Alloa, Scotland.


  • Sjögren, Bengt, Berömda vidunder, Settern, 1980, ISBN 91-7586-023-6
kelpie in Bengali: কেলপি
kelpie in German: Kelpie (Wassergeist)
kelpie in Spanish: Kelpie
kelpie in French: Kelpie
kelpie in Italian: Kelpie
kelpie in Dutch: Kelpie (mythe)
kelpie in Japanese: ケルピー
kelpie in Polish: Kelpie
kelpie in Russian: Кэльпи
kelpie in Scots: Kelpie
kelpie in Finnish: Vetehishevonen
kelpie in Swedish: Bäckahäst
kelpie in Thai: เคลปี้
kelpie in Chinese: 凱爾派

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Davy, Davy Jones, Neptune, Nereid, Oceanid, Oceanus, Poseidon, Thetis, Triton, fresh-water nymph, limniad, man fish, mermaid, merman, naiad, nix, nixie, ocean nymph, sea nymph, sea-maid, sea-maiden, siren, undine, water god, water spirit, water sprite
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