Definition of waif in English:


Pronunciation /wāf/ /weɪf/

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

    • ‘she is foster mother to various waifs and strays’
    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’


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.