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The origin of the name pixie is uncertain. Some have claimed that it comes from the Swedish dialectal pyske meaning wee little fairy. Others, however, have disputed this, claiming that due to the Cornish origin of the piskie that the term is probably Celtic in origin, though no Celtic ancestor of the word is known. Spriggans are distinguished from pixies by their malevolent nature.
Pixie mythology seems to pre-date Christian presence in Britain. In the Christian era they were sometimes said to be the souls of children who had died un-baptized. By 1869 some were suggesting that the name pixie was a racial remnant of Pictic tribes who used to paint and tattoo their skin blue, an attribute often given to pixies. This suggestion is still met in contemporary writing, but there is no proven connection and the etymological connection is doubtful. Some 19th century researchers made more general claims about pixie origins, or have connected them with the Puck, (Cornish Bucca) a mythological creature sometimes described as a fairy; the name Puck is also of uncertain origin.
Until the advent of more modern fiction, pixie mythology was localized to Britain. Some have noted similarities to "northern fairies", Germanic and Scandinavian fae, but pixies are distinguished from them by the myths and stories of Devon and Cornwall.
 Cornwall and Devon
Before the mid 19th century, pixies and fairies were taken seriously in much of Cornwall and Devon. Books devoted to the homely beliefs of the peasantry are filled with incidents of pixie manifestations. Some locales are named for the pixies associated with them. In Devon, near Challacombe, a group of rocks are named for the pixies said to dwell there. At Trevose Head in Cornwall 600 pixies were said to have gathered dancing and laughing in a circle that had appeared upon the turf until one of their number, named Omfra, lost his laugh. After searching amongst the barrows of the ancient kings of Cornwall on St Breock Downs, he wades through the bottomless Dozmary Pool on Bodmin Moor until his laugh is restored by King Arthur in the form of a Chough. In some areas belief in pixies and fairies as real beings persists.
In the legends associated with Dartmoor, pixies (or piskeys) are said to disguise themselves as a bundle of rags to lure children into their play. The pixies of Dartmoor are fond of music and dancing and for riding on Dartmoor colts. These pixies are generally said to be helpful to normal humans, sometimes helping needy widows and others with housework. They are not completely benign however, as they have a reputation for misleading travellers (being "pixy-led", the remedy for which is to turn your coat inside out).
The queen of the Cornish pixies is said to be Joan the Wad (torch), and she is considered to be good luck or bring good luck. In Devon, pixies are said to be "invisibly small, and harmless or friendly to man."
In some of the legends and historical accounts they are presented as having near human stature. For instance, a member of the Elford family in Tavistock, Devon, successfully hid from Cromwell’s troops in a pixie house. Though the entrance has narrowed with time, the pixie house, a natural cavern on Sheep Tor, still is accessible.
At Buckland St. Mary, Somerset, pixies and fairies are said to have battled each other. Here the pixies were victorious and still visit the area, whilst the fairies are said to have left after their loss.
By the early 19th century their contact with 'normal' humans had diminished. In Samuel Drew’s 1824 book Cornwall  one finds the observation: "The age of pixies, like that of chivalry, is gone. There is, perhaps, at present hardly a house they are reputed to visit. Even the fields and lanes which they formerly frequented seem to be nearly forsaken. Their music is rarely heard."