orphan

1 of 2

noun

or·​phan ˈȯr-fən How to pronounce orphan (audio)
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 adjective
orphanhood noun

orphan

2 of 2

verb

orphaned; orphaning ˈȯr-fə-niŋ How to pronounce orphan (audio)
ˈȯrf-niŋ

transitive verb

: to cause to become an orphan

Examples of orphan in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
Moten is Maximus, a former orphan who joins up with the paramilitary tech protectors in the Brotherhood of Steel and stumbles his way into a chance at greatness. Marah Eakin, WIRED, 11 Apr. 2024 That price hike comes as the pharmaceutical industry is embracing treatments for what are known as orphan diseases, or illnesses that typically affect a small population, usually 200,000 people or less. Bruce Gil, Quartz, 23 Mar. 2024 Locke, as a homosexual, and Johnson, as an orphan adrift, grew up without the usual empathetic scaffolding of familial sustenance. Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times, 1 Mar. 2024 In a ramshackle Pennsylvania neighborhood during the 1920s and ’30s, Jewish and African American residents come together to hide an orphan from state officials. Becky Meloan, Washington Post, 27 Mar. 2024 This story of an orphan's hard-knock life is an optional add-on to a six- or seven-show Broadway series subscription. Jim Higgins, Journal Sentinel, 25 Mar. 2024 The film recounts the events that occur after a nine-year-old Aboriginal Australian orphan boy arrives in the dead of night at a remote monastery run by a renegade nun. Naman Ramachandran, Variety, 13 Mar. 2024 There is a version of this book that might be more palatable to a broad readership: a version in which a traumatized war orphan’s friendship with a warmongering alien heals and redeems them both. Amal El-Mohtar, New York Times, 27 Feb. 2024 This was denied by a former chairman of the association when approached by German newspaper Der Spiegel for comment, who said that the charity collected money for orphans including Palestinians. Sophie Tanno, CNN, 28 Jan. 2024
Verb
So many children have been orphaned in the six months since Hamas’ Oct. 7. Erin McLaughlin, NBC News, 11 Apr. 2024 But Goodall also observed the primates in warfare and cannibalism — along with manifestations of empathy and communal rearing of offspring orphaned by poachers. Ralph Blumenthal, New York Times, 9 Apr. 2024 But idling is often a prelude to a well being orphaned, and after a few months of inactivity, the chance that a well never produces again rises significantly. Mark Olalde, ProPublica, 22 Feb. 2024 My Life with the Walter Boys follows 15-year-old Jackie, who at the beginning of the series was recently orphaned and had to move from New York City to rural Colorado after the Walters became her legal guardians. Adam England, Peoplemag, 18 Feb. 2024 An autobiographical edge is likely, given that Johnson, born in Boston in 1888, was orphaned at 15. Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times, 1 Mar. 2024 Lynch was orphaned at age 12 after her mother, who suffered from depression and schizophrenia, died by suicide. Norah O'Donnell, CBS News, 20 Mar. 2024 Some had been orphaned or were placed in foster homes when their birth parents became unable to care for them. Ivana Kottasová, CNN, 15 Mar. 2024 The pair had been orphaned by the 2010 earthquake, and Hamilton says becoming dad to the pair changed his life exponentially. Gillian Telling, Peoplemag, 25 Feb. 2024

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

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

Noun

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

1814, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near orphan

Cite this Entry

“Orphan.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/orphan. Accessed 22 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

orphan

1 of 2 noun
or·​phan ˈȯr-fən How to pronounce orphan (audio)
1
: a child whose parents are dead
2
: one who has had some protection or advantage taken away
orphans of the storm
orphan adjective
orphanhood noun

orphan

2 of 2 verb
orphaned; orphaning ˈȯrf-(ə-)niŋ How to pronounce orphan (audio)
: to cause to become an orphan
children orphaned by war

Legal Definition

orphan

noun
or·​phan
: 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

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