1A homeless, neglected, or abandoned person, especially a child.
ragamuffin, street urchin, guttersnipeView synonyms
- ‘she is foster mother to various waifs and strays’
- 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.