noun (1), often attributive
\ ˈkaf , ˈkäf, dialectal also ˈkāf\
plural calves\ ˈkavz , ˈkävz , ˈkāvz \ also calfs

Definition of calf

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : the young of the domestic cow also : that of a closely related mammal (such as a bison)
b : the young of various large animals (such as the elephant or whale)
2 plural calfs : the hide of the domestic calf especially : calfskin
3 : an awkward or silly youth
in calf
: pregnant used of a cow


noun (2)
plural calves\ ˈkavz , ˈkävz \

Definition of calf (Entry 2 of 2)

: the fleshy back part of the leg below the knee The cat rubbed against her calves.

Other Words from calf

Noun (1)

calflike \ ˈkaf-​ˌlīk , ˈkäf-​ , dialectal also  ˈkāf-​ \ adjective

First Known Use of calf

Noun (1)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Noun (2)

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for calf

Noun (1)

Middle English, going back to Old English cælf, plural calfur (Anglian), cealf (West Saxon), going back to Germanic *kalƀaz, *kalƀiz-, neuter s-stem (whence also Old Saxon kalf "young of a cow," Old High German kalb, Old Norse kalfr, and, from a derivative *kalƀōn-, Old High German kalba "female calf," Gothic kalbo), of uncertain origin

Note: Associated with Greek delphýs "womb," Sanskrit garbha- "womb, fetus," going back to Indo-European *gwelbhu- (see -adelphous), but the expected outcome of an ablaut form *gwolbh-es- would be Germanic *kwalb-iz-, which does not match the attested forms.

Noun (2)

Middle English, borrowed from Old Norse kalfi "calf of the leg," going back to a Germanic source probably akin to early Modern Dutch kalf "swelling of the hand or foot," Old High German wazzerchalp "edema," German dialect Kalb "muscle"

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Last Updated

14 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for calf

The first known use of calf was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for calf


\ ˈkaf , ˈkäf\
plural calves\ ˈkavz , ˈkävz \

Kids Definition of calf

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a young cow
2 : the young of various large animals (as the elephant, moose, or whale)


plural calves

Kids Definition of calf (Entry 2 of 2)

: the muscular back part of the leg below the knee


\ ˈkaf, ˈkȧf \
plural calves\ ˈkavz, ˈkȧvz \

Medical Definition of calf

: the fleshy back part of the leg below the knee

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More from Merriam-Webster on calf

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with calf

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for calf

Spanish Central: Translation of calf

Nglish: Translation of calf for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of calf for Arabic Speakers

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