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plural elves ˈelvz How to pronounce elf (audio)
: a small often mischievous fairy
: a small lively creature
also : a usually lively mischievous or malicious person
elfish adjective
elfishly adverb


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extremely low frequency

Example Sentences

Noun elves are often portrayed as rather mischievous
Recent Examples on the Web
In one image, an elf can be spotted sitting in a pot on the stove — which, for him, is unfortunately turned on and full of marshmallows. Brenton Blanchet, Peoplemag, 23 Dec. 2022 From a talking candlestick to a rambunctious elf, here are the 2022 Orlando Sentinel honorees for featured actor in a musical as selected by theater critic Matthew J. Palm. Matthew J. Palm, Orlando Sentinel, 7 Dec. 2022 Named for his elf-like appearance as a puppy, Dobby is all ears. Lesley Evans Ogden, Discover Magazine, 5 Sep. 2022 Either way, your affinity for elf culture won’t go unappreciated. Bryce Jones, Better Homes & Gardens, 5 Dec. 2022 His middle son crouches to place an elf hat on Herman as Nicole and Maverick also smile on the side. Kimberlee Speakman, Peoplemag, 26 Dec. 2022 After giving him a monocle, a curly mustache, a soul patch and drawings on his forehead, North carefully placed the eyeliner in the elf's arm next to her brother. Georgia Slater, Peoplemag, 25 Dec. 2022 The inspiration for his design is believed to be the elf who adorned bottles of the Atlas Beverage Company’s Brownie caramel cream root beer. Jonas Shaffer, Baltimore Sun, 17 Dec. 2022 The landscapes and beings can be recognizable to different users (a mechanical elf is a popular recurring visitor). Justin Higginbottom, The New Republic, 3 Jan. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'elf.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



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

First Known Use


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

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

Dictionary Entries Near elf

Cite this Entry

“Elf.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/elf. Accessed 31 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


plural elves ˈelvz How to pronounce elf (audio)
: a small and often mischievous fairy
elfish adjective
elfishly adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on elf

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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