- (in folklore) one of a class of preternatural beings, especially from mountainous regions, with magical powers, given to capricious and often mischievous interference in human affairs, and usually imagined to be a diminutive being in human form; sprite; fairy.
- a diminutive person, especially a child.
- a mischievous person, especially a child.
Origin of elf
SynonymsSee more synonyms for elf on Thesaurus.com
Examples from the Web for elf
The friends were even given military call names - Elf, Bay and Airplane.Bitter Survivors and Caravans of Coffins from Ukraine’s “Eastern Boiler”
September 14, 2014
I knew right then: Elf is the ultimate light-hearted Christmas movie.
Elf is pegged as a Christmas movie, but it hardly feels religious.
He had customized his new gun by etching in the words “better off this way” and “my ELF weapon.”Inside the Washington Navy Yard’s Building 197 During Alexis’s Rampage
September 19, 2013
Elvis (n.): A Christmas elf, as misinterpreted by Alana, who in one episode mistakes, “Elvis helps Santa Claus make toys.”‘Here Comes Honey Boo Boo’: A Glossary
July 17, 2013
"Oh, I suppose the salt has melted," was the Elf's comment upon this.Things as They Are
Arulai (Star) and Preena (the Elf), the two who were with me, were full of expectation.Lotus Buds
So the Elf gave a downward squint at the closed cage-door, just for a hint.
But something else comes creeping in,As softly, from the starry night— The Elf!
Beyond all other of the little green folk was the elf knight feared.Stories from the Ballads
- (in folklore) one of a kind of legendary beings, usually characterized as small, manlike, and mischievous
- a mischievous or whimsical child
- extremely low frequency
Word Origin and History for elf
"one of a race of powerful supernatural beings in Germanic folklore," Old English elf (Mercian, Kentish), ælf (Northumbrian), ylfe (plural, West Saxon), from Proto-Germanic *albiz (cf. Old Saxon alf, Old Norse alfr, German alp "evil spirit, goblin, incubus"), origin unknown, possibly from PIE *albho- "white." Used figuratively for "mischievous person" from 1550s.
In addition to elf/ælf (masc.), Old English had parallel form *elfen (fem.), the plural of which was *elfenna, -elfen, from Proto-Germanic *albinjo-. Both words survived into Middle English and were active there, the former as elf (with the vowel of the plural), plural elves, the latter as elven, West Midlands dialect alven (plural elvene).
The Germanic elf originally was dwarfish and malicious (cf. Old English ælfadl "nightmare," ælfsogoða "hiccup," thought to be caused by elves); in the Middle Ages they were confused to some degree with faeries; the more noble version begins with Spenser. Nonetheless a popular component in Anglo-Saxon names, many of which survive as modern given names and surnames, cf. Ælfræd "Elf-counsel" (Alfred), Ælfwine "Elf-friend" (Alvin), Ælfric "Elf-ruler" (Eldridge), also women's names such as Ælfflæd "Elf-beauty." Elf Lock hair tangled, especially by Queen Mab, "which it was not fortunate to disentangle" [according to Robert Nares' glossary of Shakespeare] is from 1592.