[awr-fuh n]
  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.
  3. a person or thing that is without protective affiliation, sponsorship, etc.: The committee is an orphan of the previous administration.
  4. Printing.
    1. (especially in word processing) the first line of a paragraph when it appears alone at the bottom of a page.
    2. widow(def 3b).
  1. bereft of parents.
  2. of or for orphans: an orphan home.
  3. not authorized, supported, or funded; not part of a system; isolated; abandoned: an orphan research project.
  4. 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
Related formsor·phan·hood, nounhalf-or·phan, nounun·or·phaned, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for orphanhood

Contemporary Examples of orphanhood

Historical Examples of orphanhood

  • Plato wishes to make the misfortune of orphanhood as little sad to them as possible.



  • And Foma's soul was dry, dark; it was filled with a painful feeling of orphanhood.

    Foma Gordyeff

    Maxim Gorky

  • To her it was a new experience, for since her orphanhood she had scarcely been away from Valencia.

    Meg, of Valencia

    Myra Williams Jarrell

  • HEN we turn away from the world, and leave it, we ourselves are not left to desolation and orphanhood.

  • The world waited long ere men found an Elder Brother who could break the spell of their orphanhood and reveal to them a Father.

    The Bible and Life

    Edwin Holt Hughes

British Dictionary definitions for orphanhood


    1. a child, one or (more commonly) both of whose parents are dead
    2. (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

Word Origin for 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

Word Origin and History for orphanhood



1814, from orphan (n.). Related: Orphaned; orphaning.



c.1300, from Late Latin orphanus "parentless child" (source of Old French orfeno, Italian orfano), from Greek orphanos "orphaned, without parents, fatherless," literally "deprived," from orphos "bereft," from PIE *orbho- "bereft of father," also "deprived of free status," from root *orbh- "to change allegiance, to pass from one status to another" (cf. Hittite harb- "change allegiance," Latin orbus "bereft," Sanskrit arbhah "weak, child," Armenian orb "orphan," Old Irish orbe "heir," Old Church Slavonic rabu "slave," rabota "servitude" (cf. robot), Gothic arbja, German erbe, Old English ierfa "heir," Old High German arabeit, German Arbeit "work," Old Frisian arbed, Old English earfoð "hardship, suffering, trouble"). As an adjective from late 15c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper