[ weyf ]
See synonyms for waif on Thesaurus.com
  1. a person, especially a child, who has no home or friends.

  2. something found, especially a stray animal, whose owner is not known.

  1. a very thin, often small person, usually a young woman.

  2. a stray item or article: to gather waifs of gossip.

  3. Nautical. waft (def. 8).

Origin of waif

First recorded in 1350–1400; Middle English, from Anglo-French, originally “lost, stray (animal), unclaimed (property)” (compare Old French guaif “stray beast”), from Scandinavian; compare Old Norse veif “movement to and fro, something waving, flag”; see waive

Words Nearby waif

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How to use waif in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for waif


/ (weɪf) /

  1. a person, esp a child, who is homeless, friendless, or neglected

  2. anything found and not claimed, the owner being unknown

  1. nautical another name for waft (def. 5)

  2. law obsolete a stolen article thrown away by a thief in his flight and forfeited to the Crown or to the lord of the manor

Origin of waif

C14: from Anglo-Norman, variant of Old Northern French gaif, of Scandinavian origin; related to Old Norse veif a flapping thing

Derived forms of waif

  • waiflike, adjective

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