The house spirit in Scottish superstition. He is called in England Robin Goodfellow. At night he is supposed to busy himself in doing little jobs for the family over which he presides. Farms are his favourite abode. Brownies are brown or tawny spirits, in opposition to fairies, which are fair or elegant ones. (See Fairies.)
“It is not long since every family of considerable substance was haunted by a spirit they called Browny, which did several sorts of work and this was the reason why they gave him offerings ... on what they called `Browny's stone.' ” —Martin: Scotland.
“I'd as lief be a Brownist as á politician.”
Shakespeare: Twelfth Night, iii. 2.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894