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 orphaning (audio) , ˈȯrf-​niŋ \

Definition of orphan (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to cause to become an orphan

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from orphan

Noun

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

Examples of orphan in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The first Warrior Nun was a woman named Areala of Córdoba, who was initially a lonely orphan. Ariana Romero, refinery29.com, "The Warrior Nun Glossary You Need To Watch The New Netflix Series," 2 July 2020 In recent weeks, the idea of a New Deal-esque jobs program that would put oilfield workers back on the job plugging orphan oil and gas wells gained significant momentum. Mark Olalde, USA TODAY, "Climate Point: Big oil is headed back to court while Congress considers paying for its cleanup," 26 June 2020 The conflict in southern Somalia left her an orphan, and about four years ago, after the family’s goats died in the drought of 2016, her grandmother sold her to a man in their town. National Geographic, "For these women, an age-old way of life is ending in the Horn of Africa," 19 June 2020 These included priority review, accelerated review, fast track review, breakthrough designation (for unmet medical needs), and orphan designation for rare diseases. Ed Silverman, STAT, "Antimicrobials benefited from expedited FDA programs more than other drugs," 12 June 2020 Before China urbanised, many households in the same village might collectively feed, clothe and care for an orphan. The Economist, "Chaguan For people in China, adopting Chinese children is getting easier," 6 June 2020 Jones' book tells the story of Earwig, an orphan girl living in St. Morwald's Home for Children. Nick Romano, EW.com, "Studio Ghibli's CG-animated film revealed: Aya and the Witch," 3 June 2020 There are about 56,000 orphan wells across the U.S., Lowenthal said, which can leak methane and other pollutants that can contaminate air and water. Josh Siegel, Washington Examiner, "Daily on Energy: Top State official says clean energy fate hinges on securing supply of metals and minerals," 2 June 2020 Though these homes are often referred to as orphanages, many of the children who pass through them are not technically orphans but are sent there by parents too poor to support them. New York Times, "Fire Kills 17 at Unaccredited Orphanage in Haiti," 14 Feb. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb 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 Mackenzie Davis stars as the young governess, Kate, who leaves behind her life in Seattle out of a desire to help a wealthy young girl, orphaned and abandoned by her last teacher. Katie Walsh, Los Angeles Times, "Tiffany Haddish’s ‘Like a Boss’ and ‘The Turning’ top new releases to watch at home," 7 Apr. 2020 Since 2009, Linda has claimed 24 abandoned or orphaned babies and provided financial and emotional support to families experiencing infant loss as the leader of He Knows Your Name Ministry. Holly V. Hays, Indianapolis Star, "Born close to heaven: The short, beautiful life of Baby Abigail," 26 Mar. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about orphan

Time Traveler for orphan

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for orphan

Last Updated

10 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Orphan.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/orphan. Accessed 10 Jul. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for orphan

orphan

noun
How to pronounce orphan (audio)

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on orphan

Spanish Central: Translation of orphan

Nglish: Translation of orphan for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of orphan for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about orphan

Comments on orphan

What made you want to look up orphan? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words for Summer: A Quiz

  • a closeup of a sunflower
  • Which of the following words means “of or relating to summer”?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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