This answer: Why did Gollum ever take off the ring in the first place? - had a quote related to how Gollum lost a ring that said

Only a few hours ago he had worn it, and caught a small goblin-imp.

What exactly is a "goblin-imp"? I don't recall any mention of imps in Tolkien.

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    I always took "imp" in this context to refer to a young goblin/orc. – Origami Robot Jan 26 '12 at 13:55
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    An interesting side-note: the bit about a goblin-imp was not in the original version of "Riddles In The Dark" (i.e. the pre-LotR publication): ringgame.net/riddles.html – Plutor Mar 15 '12 at 16:34

One of the dictionary definitions for imp is:

2 b : a mischievous child : urchin

Not a lot is known about the reproductive methods of Goblins/Orcs, but one can probably assume they are born young.

A year later: Re-reading The Hobbit, I came across a reinforcing quote. Later, just after Gollum discovers the ring is missing, he tries to figure out when he might have lost it. (Emphasis mine.)

"My birthday-present! Curse it! How did we lose it, my precious? Yes, that's it. When we came this way last, when we twisted that nassty young squeaker. That's it. Curse it! It slipped from us, after all these ages and ages! It's gone, gollum."

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    It's reasonable to assume they're quite like humans in terms of procreation, consider that we have half-orcs, goblin-men and half-orcs (not necessarily separate species). – zrvan Jan 26 '12 at 14:10
  • OK, guess I played too much Heroes of Might and Magic. I always think of imps as actual race of creatures. You're probably right, though i'd love more canonical confirmation. +1 – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 26 '12 at 15:17
  • Watching the film version of Saruman create his orc army under Orthanc makes it appear goblins/orcs pop out of the ground as adults. I don't know if Tolkien came up with that idea, or if this is another case of movie magic created by Peter Jackson. – Major Stackings Jul 17 '12 at 3:35
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    @MajorStackings Saruman's army was a specially created set of creatures -- not regular Orcs but Uruk-hai which Treebeard thinks probably are half men half Orcs. Perhaps they weren't born from the ground but put into the ground to incubate or something. I don't remember what the book says about their creation. – zipquincy Dec 19 '12 at 0:04
  • @MajorStackings It's movie magic by Peter Jackson. Tolkien doesn't explicitly say how Orcs of any kind come into being, but he does say Evil (be it Morgoth, Sauron or Saruman) cannot create living things, only twist existing ones. In fact, only Ilúvatar can create life. – Andres F. Jan 2 '13 at 21:25

Read the Silmarillion. Orcs are twisted and tortured elves of old. Goblins are their own race that has been around since before the arrival of elves and men. A half orc is no different than a half elf in the grand scheme of things. Goblin men and women exist, therefor they must reproduce in a similar fashion to men and elves. Long story short, a Goblin imp is a "small" goblin, aka child.

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  • No, goblins are orcs and orcs are goblins; they're the same species. – user8719 Dec 22 '13 at 12:33

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