\ ˈwāf How to pronounce waif (audio) \

Definition of waif

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a stray person or animal especially : a homeless child
b : something found without an owner and especially by chance
2 : an extremely thin and usually young woman
3a : 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

Definition of waif (Entry 2 of 2)

Other Words from waif

Noun (1)

waifish \ ˈwā-​fish How to pronounce waifish (audio) \ adjective
waiflike \ ˈwāf-​ˌlīk How to pronounce waiflike (audio) \ adjective

First Known Use of waif

Noun (1)

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3a

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

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

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Cite this Entry

“Waif.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/waif. Accessed 20 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for waif


\ ˈwāf How to pronounce waif (audio) \

Kids Definition of waif

: a homeless child

More from Merriam-Webster on waif

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for waif

Nglish: Translation of waif for Spanish Speakers

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