This is a vast area, as there are as many types of fairies as there are countries that claim to have them. Within the countries are regions, within those towns and villages, and within those there are specific fairies that are related to specific plants, wooded areas, streams, and even families. There are some general fairy types, though (very general) and we will discuss a few of those. You might even be surprised as to what actually constitutes a fairy!
Far from all fairies looking like Disney's Tinkerbelle or other pixie fairy, some are the height of almost 4 feet, and some look very human like. Others look almost like gnomes, and not all have wings. Some have almost sinister qualities, but these seem to stem from folklore designed to keep children safe from themselves, such as the Celtic Afanc, a welsh water demon fairy who is said to live at the bottom of a haunted--and very deep--lake. No doubt the legend that this fairy will grab you and pull you down to a watery depth was designed to keep small children from venturing near the edge. The willow fairy is often associated with the swamp gases thought to have originated with the "will 'o the wisp" legend, luring followers of the bouncing light deep into the swamps and woods.
Other fairies associated with naturally occurring phenomena are rainbow fairies, which paint the colors of the rainbow and make sure that the end never actually touches the ground, a testament to their mischievous ways. Fire fairies are made up of sprites or elementals, and have the ability to create or destroy, as fire often does.
Others are the stuff of superstition. The Irish Banshee is actually from the fairy family, and to hear her wail on a dark night is said to foretell impending death in the home. The Jinn are Arabian fairies can shape shift. It is believed that the dangerous ones must change into a form that depicts their nature, and so dangerous animals have been accused of Jinns in disguise.
Leprechauns are shoemakers who produce footwear for the fairies of Ireland. While not considered fairies themselves, they are often placed in the same broad category. Asrai are small and delicate water fairies who often get caught in a fisherman's net by accident. They will melt when they hit sunlight, but not too worry; they turn back into water as soon as they touch it again, and are very forgiving if the fisherman is simply trying to catch food to feed his family.
Brownies come out at night to help complete work left unfinished. They are kind and helpful, if not a little arrogant regarding the laziness of humans who retire before completing a project. It is advised to leave them some sweet cakes if you require their assistance.
Whether the stuff of legends, superstition, or rooted in a strong belief system of nature and fairies as earth stewards, the different types of fairies paints a fantastic and intriguing story. Maybe next time you seen a rainbow, just the thought of a rainbow fairy trailing along will bring a smile to your face.