Definition of waif in English:

waif

Syllabification: waif
Pronunciation: /wāf
 
/

noun

1A homeless and helpless person, especially a neglected or abandoned child: she is foster-mother to various waifs and strays
More example sentences
  • 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.
Synonyms
ragamuffin, urchin; foundling, orphan, stray
derogatory guttersnipe
dated gamin
1.1An abandoned pet animal.
More example sentences
  • A lost waif and stray of extraordinary beauty turned up in Aberdeen and made the front page of two national newspapers: a bluethroat looking enchantingly like a robin that had been coloured in wrong.
  • Lorraine Spencer, the founder of cat refuge Devizes Kats and Kits in Care, says she will not be taking in any more waifs and strays.
  • For the last thirty years she has been taking in waifs and strays who would otherwise have been left in kennels, or possibly even destroyed.
2 Law A piece of property thrown away by a fleeing thief and held by the state in trust for the owner to claim.

Origin

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.

Derivatives

waifish

adjective
More example sentences
  • Curvaceous, decidedly feminine and womanly I would say, rather than waifish and childlike.
  • Ben Drawing shows a waifish, pale boy with scruffy black hair and tattoos lounging in black bathing briefs on a brightly colored beach towel.
  • Audrey Hepburn may look very good in those stylish designer clothes, if you're into her starving waifish look, but she isn't a very good actress.

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