\ 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

Examples of elf in a Sentence


elves are often portrayed as rather mischievous

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Hike across a lava desert to the Hverfjall crater, and then visit Dimmuborgir—a volcanic wonderland harboring elves and trolls, according to Icelandic folklore. National Geographic, "Iceland Hiking Adventure," 12 June 2019 Dobby and Harry Potter Thanks to Harry, Dobby is now a free elf. Kelsey Stiegman, Seventeen, "15 Harry Potter Costumes To Make Your Halloween More Magical," 17 Aug. 2018 Inevitably, the first result would be a Christmas elf wearing running shoes that some guy was selling online. Charles Duhigg, New York Times, "The Case Against Google," 20 Feb. 2018 Learn about local beliefs surrounding elves, gnomes, and trolls; and hear the sagas of legendary Icelandic heroes. National Geographic, "Iceland Middle School Expedition," 12 June 2019 Some people suspect that the video may be doctored, while others say that someone could have created an elf-like puppet. Dalvin Brown, USA TODAY, "'What the heck' is that? Security camera captures odd creature, and viewers have theories," 11 June 2019 Stories of elves still give modern people the chance to embrace some old-time mystery and magic. Regina Hansen, WSJ, "The Ancient Magic of Elves," 21 Dec. 2018 But the musical comedy sketch parodying A Chorus Line, starring Kristin Chenoweth and O’Donnell as rival elves auditioning for a job for Santa, takes the whimsical cake of the evening. Liz Arcury, Marie Claire, "The 8 Best Celebrity Holiday Specials Ever," 29 Nov. 2018 At the zoo's annual breakfast and lunch with Santa, guests will enjoy Christmas carols and visit not only with Santa, but also with Mrs. Claus and the elves. Amy Schwabe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Ho ho ho! 4 places to see Santa in metro Milwaukee," 16 Nov. 2017

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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Statistics for elf

Last Updated

10 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for elf

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

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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

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More from Merriam-Webster on elf

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with elf

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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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