Sprite vs. Fairy (What’s The Difference?)

The Fairy Realms fill our lives with mystery and wonder. There are so many kinds of fairies, it may be difficult to distinguish one from another, like with Fairies and Sprites.  What’s the difference? 

Sprites are fairies but they are as souls and water whereas Fairies are a general name and an entity.

But there is a poignant distinction when discussing Sprites and Fairies as separate entities.


Sprites are a Fairy race who live near water and have clear subclasses. They might be the soul of someone who passed away or the classic notion of a mystical shade.

Sprites have a short temper that’s easy to inflame.  This is because they feel disrespected or are exercising impatience.  When this happens, they will strike a person with madness without remorse.

They are artistic, adroit, and agile with a stanch resemblance to Fairies. Their habitat is often near water, where it’s tranquil and cool. They frolic with Nymphs and play pranks on or grant wishes to humans.


When we refer to people being “sprightly,” we’re inferring they are lively. In other words, they take on the characteristics of a Sprite. This comes from older Latin and French words for “spirit.”


The “Lamiak” are water-dwelling Sprite-like beings in Basque mythology and a “Nixie” is an old German word for a water Sprite. The “yōkai” is a similar being to Japanese culture.

Sylphs, are a subclass of and share common genes with Sprites. Some people argue that Leprechauns are also Sprites because of how they grant wishes to humans.

Human Sightings

The first sprite sighting happened somewhere around 1300 AD. Many people often report seeing females with a comb made of gold. These little ladies can change the color of trees in Autumn.

Sprites often get involved with human affairs. Because of this, they relish playing tricks of the heart, causing humans to fall in love with them. This behavior inspires poets and artists to create great works.

Many writers over the decades give detailed descriptions of Sprites that offer clues into how they look, work, live, and play. Some of these images are with us today.

Specific Tales & Legends

The Lady of the Lake, from tales surrounding King Arthur and his knights of the round table, is very much a sprite. She gave King Arthur his right to kingship by gifting him Excalibur, a magical and immortal sword.

She lives in water, has a “sprightly” appearance, and grants Arthur’s ultimate wish: to be king of England.

Ariel is a famous Sprite from “The Tempest” by Shakespeare. The villain Prospero coerces her to do his bidding after being his prisoner.

Modern Depictions

A more modern sprite is Oona from the movie “Legend” in 1985 by Ridley Scott. She is a magical thing who changes sizes and attempts to seduce a kiss from a human. Two instances display her temperament.

The first was upon revelations of her sprightliness due to her shape-shifting abilities. The second is after experiencing rejection for her kiss by Tom Cruise’s character. She explodes in anger and threatens to dance his life away.


Because Fairies are their being and their name also identifies the race, they reside worldwide. From northern Europe and Russia to Asia and Africa as well as the Americas, Iceland, and even Antarctica, fairy tales abound.

There are over 1000 varieties of fairy and they cover the gamut of being tricksters, helpers, guides, protectors, and friends. Elves, Sprites, Pixies, Goblins, Sylphs, Trolls, Leprechauns, Brownies, Gnomes, Fairies, and the like all belong to the Fairy genus.

Ancient Portrayals

Faires are integral to Celtic mythology with some descriptions dating back to 400 BC. Some archaeologists link Fairies with European death cults from 9000 to 8000 BC.

Etruscan paintings from 600 BC show little winged humans called “Lassa,” who attend gods and are messengers of the dead. Even ancient Anglo-Saxon charms from 800 AD pray for protection against their mischief.

Fairy Power & Magic

Almost all Fairies and their races are a part of and care for the natural world. A myriad of legends and stories say they have dominion over elements like fire, air, earth, and water. Some myths tell us they inaugurate the seasons and yet other legends relate how different Fairies rule over each season.

Individual fairies have their special powers, some of which they perform in the human world. But almost all can appear or disappear at will. What gives them invisibility is ingesting Faerie Weed, which is toxic to humans.

Human Sightings

Many reports of Fairy sightings are due to identifying and interacting with their haunts and hideouts.  Certain mounds, stones, and circles of toadstool mushrooms can indicate their presence.

After a night of dancing and revelry, toadstool mushrooms grow from the dust Fairies leave behind before returning to their secret realm.

Time & Entrances

In their home beyond human sight, time and space don’t flow in the same way. One night in the land of the Fae is equal to several human years.

The legend of “Rip Van Winkle” and the story of “Darby O’Gill and the Little People” relate and warn against their alteration of time.

Most entrances to the secret world of fairies are at the trunk of a tree. Popular belief determines these be old Oaks, but some tales say other places, like a blooming lotus in Spring, are the entranceway.

To enter the hidden Fairy world, you must receive an invitation or have a piece of iron to block the entrance. Fairies tend to find iron toxic, so they won’t touch it.

Today’s Findings

Since 2013, a Spanish Photographer traveled to Iceland on many occasions because she believes Fairy folk live there. It’s not a bizarre prospect since there’s a school for Elves in Reykjavik called the “Álfaskólinn.”

Fairies are not only their race but the word “Fairy” also classifies all races of wee folk, including Sprites.

So, for the sake of understanding, all Sprites are Fairies but not all Fairies can be Sprites. Their close relationship with death is the key to understanding their mysteries.

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