orphan

noun
or·​phan | \ ˈȯr-fən How to pronounce orphan (audio) \

Definition of orphan

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a child deprived by death of one or usually both parents He became an orphan when his parents died in a car accident.
2 : a young animal that has lost its mother feeding calves that are orphans
3 : one deprived of some protection or advantage orphans of the storm refugee orphans of the war
4 : a first line (as of a paragraph) separated from its related text and appearing at the bottom of a printed page or column

orphan

verb
orphaned; orphaning\ ˈȯr-​fə-​niŋ How to pronounce orphan (audio) , ˈȯrf-​niŋ \

Definition of orphan (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to cause to become an orphan

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Other Words from orphan

Noun

orphan adjective
orphanhood \ ˈȯr-​fən-​ˌhu̇d How to pronounce orphan (audio) \ noun

Examples of orphan in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Once lauded for its low death rate, the country may be staring at an orphan crisis because of mass fatalities. Manavi Kapur, Quartz, "Nearly two months on, India’s devastating Covid-19 wave is still unrelenting," 6 May 2021 Audrey, then 11, played the role of Annie, and Gracie, then 7, played her youngest orphan sister, Molly. Linda Mcintosh, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Bond of friendship ties two teen “Rising Stars”," 6 May 2021 An orphan, she's been shunned her entire life by most everyone, except her best friend Mal (Archie Renaux), who is also multi-racial and an outsider. Olivia Truffaut-wong, refinery29.com, "R29 Recaps: Every Episode From Shadow and Bone Season 1," 27 Apr. 2021 In addition to becoming an orphan, his older brother was charged in the killings, putting Hayden and his siblings in the national spotlight. al, "Elmore County’s Hayden Holton wins national Spirit of Sport Award," 18 Mar. 2021 This is a classic example of John F. Kennedy’s maxim that victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan. William A. Galston, WSJ, "Biden’s First 100 Days—and the Next 100," 27 Apr. 2021 Yue, raised an orphan, met her future husband in 1976 at a bus ticket station. Bill Rankin, ajc, "Spa shooter killed a compassionate, generous woman, her sons say," 2 Apr. 2021 In a sentencing memorandum, Screnock grew up an orphan in South Korea before being adopted by an American family. Michelle Theriault Boots, Anchorage Daily News, "Former Anchorage shop owner sentenced in Alaska Native art misrepresentation case," 11 Mar. 2021 Meet soldier and orphan Alina Starkov, who unleashes an incredible superpower that could help her set her people free. Zoe Haylock, Vulture, "Shadow and Bone Teaser: Uh-Oh, the Villain Is Hot," 26 Feb. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that orphan and abandoned wells emit roughly 280,000 metric tons of methane each year, which is about as much pollution created by 2.1 million passenger vehicles annually. Josh Siegel, Washington Examiner, "Biden infrastructure plan calls for employing oil workers to plug leaking wells: How it would work," 5 Apr. 2021 Aracely was convinced the virus would kill her and orphan her children. Evan Allen And Beth Teitell, BostonGlobe.com, "What we lost, what we found," 12 Mar. 2021 Parents of deer and rabbits typically interact with their young at dawn and dusk, which can leave the impression that the young are orphaned. cleveland, "Baby animals on their own are rarely orphaned, wildlife experts say," 3 June 2020 Galdikas continues to observe and care for the Borneo orangutans, many orphaned because of logging and poaching. Los Angeles Times, "We’re worse off this Earth Day than any before. Watch these 7 TV shows to feel hopeful," 22 Apr. 2020 Set in the early 19th century, Michael Crummey’s fifth novel is a brilliant, harrowing, and supremely moving tale of Evered and Ada, orphaned at ages 11 and 9 on an isolated cove in Newfoundland. Katherine A. Powers, Washington Post, "Listen up! Our critic picks three new audiobooks for your playlist.," 21 Jan. 2020 Set in contemporary Germany and France, and recently translated into English, the story centers on three siblings — Jules, Martin and Liz Moreau — who are orphaned by the sudden death of their parents. BostonGlobe.com, "The Lager Queen of Minnesota," 27 Sep. 2019 Instead of grizzled frontiersmen, the story turns on two siblings, Lucy and Sam, orphaned during the Gold Rush. Mark Athitakis, USA TODAY, "Review: C Pam Zhang's ambitious novel turns the Western on its head with Chinese myth," 6 Apr. 2020 With no formal crisis plan, Mayor Matthew Clarkson turned to volunteers collect clothing, food, and monetary donations; to pitch a makeshift hospital; and to build a home for 191 children temporarily or permanently orphaned by the epidemic. Katherine A. Foss, Smithsonian Magazine, "How Epidemics of the Past Forced Americans to Promote Health—and Ended Up Improving Life in This Country," 2 Apr. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'orphan.' 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 orphan

Noun

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

1814, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for orphan

Noun

Middle English orphan, orphen, borrowed from Anglo-French & Late Latin; Anglo-French orphayn, borrowed from Late Latin orphanus, borrowed from Greek orphanós "left without parents, child without parents," derivative (with -anos, noun and adjective suffix) of *orphos "orphan," going back to Indo-European *h3órbhos "person or property turned over (as after a death)," whence also Armenian orb "orphan," Latin orbus "deprived by death of a relative, bereaved, orphan," Old Church Slavic rabŭ "slave," also (from post-Indo-European *orbhós "one having the inheritance, heir," whence *orbhii̯o- "of the heir") Old Irish orpe, orbae "patrimony, heritage," Old English ierfe "inheritance," Old Saxon erƀi, Old High German erbi, Gothic arbi, and (from Germanic *arbijōn- "heir") Old English ierfa "heir," Old High German erbo, Gothic arbja, runic Norse arbija; Indo-European *h3órbhos perhaps derivative of a verbal base *h3erbh- "turn, be turned over, undergo transfer" — more at orb entry 1

Verb

derivative of orphan entry 1

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Time Traveler for orphan

Time Traveler

The first known use of orphan was in the 15th century

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Statistics for orphan

Last Updated

12 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Orphan.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/orphan. Accessed 16 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for orphan

orphan

noun

English Language Learners Definition of orphan

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a child whose parents are dead

orphan

verb

English Language Learners Definition of orphan (Entry 2 of 2)

: to cause (a child) to become an orphan

orphan

noun
or·​phan | \ ˈȯr-fən How to pronounce orphan (audio) \

Kids Definition of orphan

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a child whose parents are dead

orphan

verb
orphaned; orphaning

Kids Definition of orphan (Entry 2 of 2)

: to cause to have no parents : cause to become an orphan She was orphaned as a baby.

orphan

noun
or·​phan

Legal Definition of orphan

: a child deprived by death of one or usually both parents broadly : a child without a parent or guardian

More from Merriam-Webster on orphan

Nglish: Translation of orphan for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of orphan for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about orphan

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