\ ˈelf How to pronounce elf (audio) \
plural elves\ ˈelvz How to pronounce elf (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 ELF (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 One of the monsters created was Kitsu, an elf mage, who was crossbred with a mahr, a being of illusion. Nick Romano, EW.com, 24 Aug. 2021 Chris Hemsworth’s thunder god has a sequel that’s a blender of familiar fantasy tropes as Thor and love interest Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) have to deal with a dark elf with an Infinity Stone. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, 8 July 2021 Every night the elf magically goes back to the North Pole to tell Santa about whether or not your kids have been good enough to make it on the nice list. Isabel Garcia, House Beautiful, 27 Oct. 2020 Every snippet of information about the show has left us hungry for more, from the lush New Zealand locations to the news that Saint Maud’s Morfydd Clark will play the elf Galadriel. Radhika Seth, Vogue, 30 Mar. 2021 Nothing seems to go right for young Kate, a frustrated Londoner who works as an elf in a year-round Christmas shop. Los Angeles Times, 26 Mar. 2021 Elves are exceptionally popular at the moment thanks to how many of them were introduced in Kaldheim, and so having a graveyard-loving, elf-loving beast on the board is going to appeal to many players. Joe Parlock, Forbes, 5 Mar. 2021 Now a teenager, Kate is in Cancun, Mexico, on a holiday getaway when she's spirited away to the North Pole and helps the Clauses when a very naughty former elf (Julian Dennison) threatens to destroy Christmas. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, 24 Nov. 2020 Founder and Avon resident, Jenny McClear, recently posted on the organization’s Facebook page that masks are now available in a variety of patterns to perfectly outfit your elf. cleveland, 7 Nov. 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

2 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Elf.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/elf. Accessed 20 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for elf



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

More from Merriam-Webster on 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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