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Origin of dwarf

First recorded before 900; Middle English dwerf, Old English dweorh; replacing Middle English dwerg, Old English dweorg; cognate with Old High German twerg, Old Norse dvergr

usage note for dwarf

1. Although dwarf, midget, pygmy have all been used as terms for a very small person, dwarf is now the preferred form, and midget should be avoided as disparaging and offensive. A dwarf is someone with a medical condition that results in stunted growth (58 inches or shorter in height), with a physical form that is disproportionate or not normally developed in some way. The word midget is now disparaging and offensive and should be avoided. It was formerly used for someone of proportionate form but abnormally small physical stature. The terms dwarf and little person are now preferable in reference to these short-statured people. A Pygmy is a member of one of certain small-sized peoples of Africa and Asia. The term should not be used to refer to a dwarf or other little person. Dwarf is a term often used to describe very small plants. Pygmy is used to describe very small animals.


dwarf·like, adjectivedwarf·ness, nounun·dwarfed, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022

How to use dwarf in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for dwarf

/ (dwɔːf) /

noun plural dwarfs or dwarves (dwɔːvz)
an abnormally undersized person, esp one with a large head and short arms and legsCompare midget
  1. an animal or plant much below the average height for the species
  2. (as modifier)a dwarf tree
(in folklore) a small ugly manlike creature, often possessing magical powers
astronomy short for dwarf star
to become or cause to become comparatively small in size, importance, etc
(tr) to stunt the growth of

Derived forms of dwarf

dwarfish, adjectivedwarfishly, adverbdwarfishness, noun

Word Origin for dwarf

Old English dweorg; related to Old Norse dvergr, Old High German twerc
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Medical definitions for dwarf

[ dwôrf ]

n. pl. dwarfs
An abnormally small person, often having limbs and features not properly proportioned or formed.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Scientific definitions for dwarf

[ dwôrf ]

An abnormally small person, often having limbs and features atypically proportioned or formed.
An atypically small animal or plant.
A dwarf star or dwarf galaxy.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.