noun (1)
\ˈwāf \

Definition of waif 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a piece of property (such as property washed up by the sea) found but unclaimed

b waifs plural : stolen goods thrown away by a thief in flight

2a : something found without an owner and especially by chance

b : a stray person or animal especially : a homeless child

3 : an extremely thin and usually young woman


noun (2)

Definition of waif (Entry 2 of 2)

Other Words from waif

Noun (1)

waifish \ˈwā-fish \ adjective
waiflike \ˈwāf-ˌlīk \ adjective

First Known Use of waif

Noun (1)

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Noun (2)

1530, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for waif

Noun (1)

Middle English weif, waif, from Anglo-French, from waif, adjective, stray, unclaimed, probably of Scandinavian origin; akin to Old Norse veif something flapping, veifa to be in movement — more at wipe

Noun (2)

perhaps of Scandinavian origin; akin to Old Norse veif something flapping

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about waif

Listen to Our Podcast about waif

Phrases Related to waif

waifs and strays

Statistics for waif

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for waif

The first known use of waif was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for waif


\ˈwāf \

Kids Definition of waif

: a homeless child

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on waif

See words that rhyme with waif

Spanish Central: Translation of waif

Nglish: Translation of waif for Spanish Speakers

Comments on waif

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


not any or not one

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Great Scrabble Words—A Quiz

  • scrabble-tiles-that-read-scrabble-quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Word Winder's CrossWinder

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


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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