- "Orc is not an English word. It occurs in one or two places [in The Hobbit] but is usually translated goblin (or hobgoblin for the larger kinds)"
- —J.R.R. Tolkien, Preface to The Hobbit
Hobgoblins were stronger, larger, and more menacing than other orcs. They are mentioned only once, by Gandalf, in The Hobbit. He described them as one of the many kinds of orcs inhabiting the Wilderland. Many of them are probably some form of Uruk-hai or else a particularly large breed of orcs living in the wilderland. There is however no specific orc-race called hobgoblins but it is simply the name for all larger kinds of orcs, used in The Hobbit.
J.R.R. Tolkien wrote in a 1971 letter that in folklore hobgoblins were actually particularly small goblins of the traditional (not the Tolkien) kind, which is opposite to the case with the "goblins" (orcs) of The Hobbit.