waif (n.) late 14c., "unclaimed property, flotsam, stray animal," from Anglo-Norm. waif, gwaif (early 13c.) "ownerless property," probably from a Scandinavian source akin to O.N. veif "waving thing, flag," from P.Gmc. *waif-, from PIE *weip- "to turn, vacillate, tremble ecstatically" (see VIBRATE (Cf. vibrate)). Cf. M.L. waivium "thing thrown away by a thief in flight." A Scottish/northern English parallel form was wavenger (late 15c.).
Meaning "person (especially a child) without home or friends" first attested 1784, from legal phrase waif and stray (1620s). Neglected children being uncommonly thin, the word tended toward this sense. Connotations of "fashionable, small, slender woman" began 1991 with application to childishly slim supermodels, e.g. Kate Moss.

Etymology dictionary. 2014.

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  • Waif — Waif, n. [OF. waif, gaif, as adj., lost, unclaimed, chose gaive a waif, LL. wayfium, res vaivae; of Scand. origin. See {Waive}.] [1913 Webster] 1. (Eng. Law.) Goods found of which the owner is not known; originally, such goods as a pursued thief… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • waif — ► NOUN ▪ a homeless and helpless person, especially a neglected or abandoned child. DERIVATIVES waifish adjective. ORIGIN originally in waif and stray, denoting a piece of property found and, if unclaimed, falling to the lord of the manor: from… …   English terms dictionary

  • waif — index orphan Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • waif — [weıf] n [Date: 1300 1400; : Old North French; Origin: , (adjective), lost, unclaimed , from a Scandinavian language] 1.) someone, especially a child, who is pale and thin and looks as if they do not have a home 2.) waifs and strays BrE children… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • waif — [ weıf ] noun count a person, especially a child, who is thin and pale and looks as if they need to be taken care of a. a child who has no home waifs and strays BRITISH children or animals that do not have homes …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • waif- — *waif germ.: Quelle: Personenname; Sonstiges: Reichert, Lexikon der altgermanischen Namen 2, 1990, 639 (Alwef, Baudofeif, Genuveif, Marcoveif, Merveif, Vaefari …   Germanisches Wörterbuch

  • waif — [n] lost or unclaimed person or thing castaway, dogie, drop*, fetch*, flotsam, foundling, homeless one, jetsam, orphan, ragamuffin, stray, urchin; concept 423 …   New thesaurus

  • waif — [wāf] n. [ME < NormFr, prob. < ON veif, anything flapping about < veifa, to wave, swing < IE * weip , to turn, var. of * weib > L vibrare, to VIBRATE] 1. anything found by chance that is without an owner 2. a person without home or …   English World dictionary

  • Waif — The word waif (from the Old French guaif , stray beast)Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/waif (accessed: June 02, 2008)] refers to a living creature removed, by hardship, loss or other… …   Wikipedia

  • WAIF — Infobox Radio station name = WAIF city = area = Cincinnati, Ohio branding = slogan = airdate = frequency = 88.3 FM format = community radio power = erp = haat = class = facility id = coordinates = callsign meaning = former callsigns = owner = The …   Wikipedia

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