- plural of elf.
- (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
- an extremely dim, flattened, expanding, reddish glow briefly seen over a thunderstorm, due to electromagnetic pulses from intense lightning.
Examples from the Web for elves
So the elves in the Woodland Realm were an obvious [choice].‘No Regrets’: Peter Jackson Says Goodbye to Middle-Earth
December 4, 2014
The elves send Buddy off on an adventure to big, bad New York City to meet his family and start a new life.Elf’s 10th Anniversary: I’m Still Obsessed With This Syrupy Movie
November 7, 2013
One episode, for example, centered on a Christmas-themed “celebration,” complete with elves and reindeer.‘The Man With the 132 Lb. Scrotum’: TLC’s Lowest Show Yet?
August 1, 2013
That Santa told tellers he needed the money to “pay his elves.”Criminal Santas: Grapevine Murders, Bank Robberies, More (Photos)
December 28, 2011
The elves, and nixies and sprites, of all colors and many forms were on hand.Welsh Fairy Tales
William Elliott Griffis
At his birth the elves and the fairies were summoned together.
He invoked the spirit of his mother; he brought together an assembly of elves and goblins.
Wild Robin was safe, and the elves had lost their power over him forever.
"Elves" they were called, and they were thought of as a cleanly and kindly race.History of Religion
- the plural of elf
- extremely low frequency
- (in folklore) one of a kind of legendary beings, usually characterized as small, manlike, and mischievous
- a mischievous or whimsical child
Word Origin and History for elves
"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.
- An extremely dim, short-lived, expanding disk of reddish light above thunderstorms, believed to be caused by electromagnetic pulses from intense lightning in the lower ionosphere. Elves last less than a second and can be as wide as 500 km (310 mi) in diameter.
Often small, mischievous creatures thought to have magical powers. Although some elves are friendly to humans, others are spiteful and destructive. Elves have long been a staple of folklore, from Germanic mythology to J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, in which the elves speak a special language called Elvish.