[kaf, kahf]

noun, plural calves [kavz, kahvz] /kævz, kɑvz/.

the young of the domestic cow or other bovine animal.
the young of certain other mammals, as the elephant, seal, and whale.
calfskin leather.
Informal. an awkward, silly boy or man.
a mass of ice detached from a glacier, iceberg, or floe.


    in calf, (of a cow or other animal having calves) pregnant.
    kill the fatted calf, to prepare an elaborate feast in welcome or celebration.

Origin of calf

before 900; Middle English; Old English cealf, calf; cognate with Old Saxon kalf, Old Norse kalfr, Old High German kalb
Related formscalf·less, adjectivecalf·like, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for kill the fatted calf



noun plural calves

the young of cattle, esp domestic cattleRelated adjective: vituline
the young of certain other mammals, such as the buffalo, elephant, giraffe, and whale
a large piece of floating ice detached from an iceberg, etc
kill the fatted calf to celebrate lavishly, esp as a welcome
another name for calfskin

Word Origin for calf

Old English cealf; related to Old Norse kālfr, Gothic kalbō, Old High German kalba



noun plural calves

the thick fleshy part of the back of the leg between the ankle and the kneeRelated adjective: sural

Word Origin for calf

C14: from Old Norse kalfi
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

Word Origin and History for kill the fatted calf



fleshy part of the lower leg, early 14c., from Old Norse kalfi, source unknown; possibly from the same Germanic root as calf (n.1).



"young cow," Old English cealf (Anglian cælf) "young cow," from West Germanic *kalbam (cf. Middle Dutch calf, Old Norse kalfr, German Kalb, Gothic kalbo), perhaps from PIE *gelb(h)-, from root *gel- "to swell," hence, "womb, fetus, young of an animal." Elliptical sense of "leather made from the skin of a calf" is from 1727. Used of icebergs that break off from glaciers from 1818.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

kill the fatted calf in Medicine



n. pl. calves (kăvz)

The fleshy, muscular back part of the human leg between the knee and ankle, formed chiefly by the bellies of the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with kill the fatted calf

kill the fatted calf

Prepare for a joyful occasion or a warm welcome. For example, When Bill comes home from his trip to Korea we're going to kill the fatted calf. This expression alludes to the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11–32), whose father welcomed him by serving the choicest calf after his return. [Early 1600s]


see kill the fatted calf; puppy (calf) love.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.