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

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
Maisie Brumble, the orphan, stows away on the ship of the famous Jacob Holland, hoping to help him destroy monsters. Marisa Lascala, Good Housekeeping, 29 Nov. 2022 After Santa loses his memory, his dog Paws, an orphan named Quinn (Kaitlyn Maher), her friend Will (Madison Pettis) and a pack of adorable talking dogs have to work together to save him and help N.Y.C. rediscover the spirit of the season. Sydni Ellis, Peoplemag, 22 Nov. 2022 Depesseville grew up with friends that came from orphan families. Liza Foreman, Variety, 19 Nov. 2022 Vitalik, 15, is a mentally disabled orphan who was evacuated together with 40 others from an orphanage for children with special needs in Zaturce, in western Ukraine, in the first weeks of the war. Monika Pronczuk, New York Times, 16 Nov. 2022 Her poem underscores the feeling of being an orphan to a language. Daniel Olivas, Los Angeles Times, 9 Nov. 2022 The incomparable Anya Taylor-Joy is Beth Harmon, an orphan who finds a deep love and unmatched talent for chess. Claudia Guthrie, ELLE, 18 Nov. 2022 The motherless young Nemo (Marlow Barkley) becomes an orphan only moments into the story, and is sent to live with an unsympathetic relative (Chris O’Dowd). John Anderson, WSJ, 17 Nov. 2022 His father was drafted into the German Army and killed during World War II, and his mother died at an early age of endometriosis, leaving him an orphan. Frederick N. Rasmussen, Baltimore Sun, 9 Nov. 2022
Verb
These deaths orphan hundreds of thousands of children and, along with the serious illnesses, destroy an entire generation of older Americans, rip apart family structure and wreak havoc on the economy. Thoai D. Ngo, Scientific American, 15 June 2022 The event takes place at 9 a.m. Thursday in the center’s outdoor pavilion at 6461 El Apajo Road, and will virtually unite animal advocates to help orphan pets and #SeeTheLight about pet adoption. Linda Mcintosh, San Diego Union-Tribune, 19 Sep. 2021 The shelter, which currently has two full-time employees in addition to Mrs. Langen, one part-timer and some volunteers, is also home to orphan black bears, moose and deer. New York Times, 23 July 2021 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, 5 Apr. 2021 Aracely was convinced the virus would kill her and orphan her children. Evan Allen And Beth Teitell, BostonGlobe.com, 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, 3 June 2020 Galdikas continues to observe and care for the Borneo orangutans, many orphaned because of logging and poaching. Los Angeles Times, 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, 21 Jan. 2020 See More

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.

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 2 Dec. 2022.

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

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!


Challenging Words You Should Know

  • hedgehog reading a book
  • Often used to describe “the march of time,” what does inexorable mean?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ