\ ˈelf How to pronounce elf (audio) \
plural elves\ ˈelvz How to pronounce elves (audio) \

Definition of elf

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a small often mischievous fairy
2 : a small lively creature also : a usually lively mischievous or malicious person

Definition of ELF (Entry 2 of 2)

extremely low frequency

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Other Words from elf


elfish \ ˈel-​fish How to pronounce elfish (audio) \ adjective
elfishly adverb

Frequently Asked Questions About elf

What is the plural of elf?

Although elfs may occasionally be found in print the accepted modern plural form of elf is elves. This follows the common method of pluralizing nouns in English ending in an –f (shelf/shelves, calf/calves). There are, it should be noted, numerous exceptions to this, such as roof/roofs, and serf/serfs.

Why are elves associated with Christmas?

Elves began to be associated with Christmas in the United State in the 19th century, following the publication of such works as Clement Clarke Moore’s 1823 poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas," which described the titular figure as "a right jolly old elf."

What is the origin of the word elf?

Elf is a very old word, and has been with us not only in modern English, but in Middle and Old English as well (in Old English it was ælf). Dating in use from before the 12th century, elf has similarities to a number of related words in other languages, such as the Middle Low German alf ("incubus") and the Old Norse alfr ("elf").

Examples of elf in a Sentence

Noun elves are often portrayed as rather mischievous
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Think of Lucas' character as the helpful elf, suddenly bringing magic into everyone's lives. Brian Lowry, CNN, "'The Secret: Dare to Dream' turns the bestselling book into what feels like a Hallmark movie," 31 July 2020 Visitors get a kick out of seeing the solid black Lamancha goat, with its elf-like ears, sticking close to Mark. Michelle Matthews | Mmatthews@al.com, al, "Valentino the goat is once again getting his kicks," 18 June 2020 In the exclusive video above, Smythe, a story artist on Pixar's Onward, offers a tutorial on how to draw Laurel Lightfoot, the elf mother to elf brothers Ian (voiced by Tom Holland) and Barley (Chris Pratt). Nick Romano, EW.com, "Bored at home? Pixar artist teaches how to draw Onward character," 10 Apr. 2020 Holland stars as teen elf Ian who is gifted with a magical staff and enchantment to spend 24 hours with the father who died before Ian was born. Editors, USA TODAY, "Trump visits Tennessee, Hillary Clinton docuseries, SpaceX launch: 5 things to know this Friday," 6 Mar. 2020 In fact, during this unprecedented time in history, as the world deals with the coronavirus pandemic, the jolly old elf is needed more than ever. Michelle Matthews | Mmatthews@al.com, al, "A Santa in Alabama is spreading Christmas cheer to all who need it," 4 Apr. 2020 The blue-skinned elves have drastically different personalities: Ian is a self-conscious, awkward teenager, and Barley is an eccentric magic enthusiast obsessed with a Dungeons & Dragons-esque game defined by the rules of spells that once existed. Nicole Ludden, azcentral, "'Onward' is a moving emotional tale, but it's not quite as good as other Pixar successes," 4 Mar. 2020 And elves are, ears and sky-blue skin aside, much like humans. Ben Kenigsberg, New York Times, "‘Onward’ Review: An Expected Journey," 4 Mar. 2020 This world also contains elves, knights, witches, weird goatlike creatures with boggly eyes, and shedloads of ghouls. Helen Lewis, The Atlantic, "Why The Witcher Is Better Than Game of Thrones," 1 Jan. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'elf.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of elf


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

History and Etymology for elf


Middle English, from Old English ælf; akin to Old Norse alfr elf & perhaps to Latin albus white — more at alb

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Time Traveler for elf

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for elf

Last Updated

8 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Elf.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/elf. Accessed 10 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for elf


How to pronounce ELF (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of elf

: a small creature in stories usually with pointed ears and magical powers


\ ˈelf How to pronounce elf (audio) \
plural elves\ ˈelvz \

Kids Definition of elf

: an often mischievous fairy

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More from Merriam-Webster on elf

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for elf

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with elf

Spanish Central: Translation of elf

Nglish: Translation of elf for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of elf for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about elf

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