Meaning of waif in English:


Pronunciation /weɪf/

See synonyms for waif

Translate waif into Spanish


  • 1A homeless, neglected, or abandoned person, especially a child.

    ‘she is foster mother to various waifs and strays’
    • ‘I used to pick up all sorts of collarless waifs and strays from our housing estate in Ireland.’
    • ‘Winter for Kiev's waifs and strays is a cold, bleak daily battle for survival.’
    • ‘Mrs Tarpen had no problem with that idea, and she rather liked the idea of helping a homeless waif off the streets.’
    • ‘It will also act as a staging post for medical care and feeding for some of Kiev's 10,000 homeless waifs and strays.’
    • ‘Artie enters with a lost teen waif named Donna whom he found in an elevator.’
    • ‘Tavistock Street already has a number of problems which seem to be exacerbated by a policy of housing the waifs and strays of the borough nearby.’
    • ‘Merlin, Jo and Ollie are siblings; waifs and strays with an absent father and a hopeless mother who locks them out of the house for long periods.’
    • ‘Experts estimate that China has at least 150,000 waifs between the ages of 10 and 15 wandering its streets.’
    • ‘Coogan essentially reprises the role that made him famous, only this time he's an immigrant waif orphaned during his sea passage from the Old World.’
    • ‘This is the simplified world of a child's memories - although Joe is no naïve waif - and it is largely remembered with fondness.’
    • ‘At his St Thomas's gym, on the run-down hill on Wincobank, world-class boxers spar among a small band of waifs and strays aged from five to 50.’
    • ‘It was hard to believe this modest little place was charity shop Barnardo's, once associated with sale of second-hand items to raise funds for waifs and orphans.’
    • ‘Like Lessing during the 1960s, Frances is a ‘housemother’, who fills her large home with an eclectic mixture of waifs, strays and scroungers.’
    • ‘With the exception of a saintly matron, called Mama Sunshine, who collects waifs and strays, grown-ups are not to be trusted.’
    • ‘The labor movement used the dominant culture's gendered representations of fallen women, tramps and street waifs to assert their demands for a living wage and an eight hour day.’
    • ‘Artful Dodgers are on every street corner waiting for poor orphaned waifs.’
    • ‘With the spread of Sunday schools and increasing literacy a huge market for religious fiction was created, stories of street waifs by such writers as ‘Hesba Stretton’ being particularly popular.’
    • ‘Dutton's Epoch label seems to be turning into a home for British music's foundlings, but Cyril Scott is one of the more deserving of those waifs and strays.’
    • ‘Your willingness to help others is admirable, but unless you're a registered charity you'd best contain your habit of taking in waifs and offering them a hot bath and food.’
    • ‘The youngsters have raised £1,800 towards the almost completed first safe house for Ukrainian waifs and strays, paid for and equipped by Kendal-based charity New Beginnings.’
    ragamuffin, street urchin, guttersnipe
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    1. 1.1A young person who is thin and looks unhealthy or uncared for.
      ‘a little shop presided over by a Gothic waif in purple eyeshadow and lipstick’
      • ‘It's what the cool waif girls would throw on effortlessly but still look amazing.’
      • ‘Those movies wanted us to see her as a Pre-Raphaelite figure but she verged on a Walter Keane waif.’
      • ‘There were more of those girls than there were little waif heroin-looking chicks.’
      • ‘Zorina was no ethereal waif; she gave sturdy, supple body to the classical dance.’
      • ‘Carilya was odd, a slender frail-looking girl, though no longer the skinny waif she had been.’
      • ‘Britney has bridged the gap between knowing teenage waif and sex bomb.’
      • ‘Once a tiny, flitting waif, she had become a graceful, full-figured woman.’
      • ‘In an era of waifs and buffed bodies, the full-figured beauties in Rubens's works have a graceful nobility.’
      • ‘British waif Kate Moss was to follow, helping to launch his unisex perfume CK one.’
      • ‘Who thinks a white blond, blue-eyed, slender waif can commit murder?’
      • ‘Jay, dear, go get her luggage, this little waif who was obviously underfed in London, shouldn't have to carry her own.’
      • ‘The waifs are back… those small, thin people are ruling the media.’
      • ‘In January 1945, at 13, she emerged from a Nazi labor camp in Czestochowa, Poland, a waif on the verge of death.’
      • ‘But Nicole claims that she's always been a tiny bony little waif, and during season one of The Simple Life, she was going through a rare chubby period.’
      • ‘Robby's wife was a beautiful yet petite waif of a woman with straight, jet black hair.’
      • ‘I am not some anaemic little waif who looks like she'll blow away in a strong wind.’
      • ‘A dark Goth pop spectacle, should one exist, would work best with a pale, dark-haired waif, who moves in a dreamy ethereal manner - a buxom earth mother cast in this role would simply spoil the whole look.’
      • ‘You appreciate someone with a few extra pounds (as opposed to, say, the starving waifs you presented me with?)’
      • ‘Lauren had changed from being a chatty, chubby, healthy child to become a withdrawn, frightened waif with ‘stick-insect thin’ arms.’


Late Middle English from an Anglo-Norman French variant of Old Northern French gaif, probably of Scandinavian origin. Early use was often in waif and stray, as a legal term denoting a piece of property found and, if unclaimed, falling to the lord of the manor.