[ awr-fuhn ]
See synonyms for orphan on Thesaurus.com
  1. a child who has lost both parents through death, or, less commonly, one parent.

  2. a young animal that has been deserted by or has lost its mother.

  1. a person or thing that is without protective affiliation, sponsorship, etc.: The committee is an orphan of the previous administration.

  2. Printing.

    • (especially in word processing) the first line of a paragraph when it appears alone at the bottom of a page.

  1. bereft of parents.

  2. of or for orphans: an orphan home.

  1. not authorized, supported, or funded; not part of a system; isolated; abandoned: an orphan research project.

  2. lacking a commercial sponsor, an employer, etc.: orphan workers.

verb (used with object)
  1. to deprive of parents or a parent through death: He was orphaned at the age of four.

  2. Informal. to deprive of commercial sponsorship, an employer, etc.: The recession has orphaned many experienced workers.

Origin of orphan

1425–75; late Middle English (noun) <Late Latin orphanus destitute, without parents <Greek orphanós bereaved; akin to Latin orbus bereaved

Other words from orphan

  • or·phan·hood, noun
  • half-orphan, noun
  • un·or·phaned, adjective

Words Nearby orphan

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use orphan in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for orphan


/ (ˈɔːfən) /

    • a child, one or (more commonly) both of whose parents are dead

    • (as modifier): an orphan child

  1. printing the first line of a paragraph separated from the rest of the paragraph by occurring at the foot of a page

  1. (tr) to deprive of one or both parents

Origin of orphan

C15: from Late Latin orphanus, from Greek orphanos; compare Latin orbus bereaved

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