Pronunciation Noun

waif (plural waifs)

  1. A castaway; a homeless child.
    Synonyms: wanderer, stray
    • 1912: Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes, Chapter 5
      Tenderly Kala nursed her little waif, wondering silently why it did not gain strength and agility as did the little apes of other mothers. It was nearly a year from the time the little fellow came into her possession before he would walk alone, and as for climbing--my, but how stupid he was!
  2. (botany, of a plant outside its native range) A plant that has been introduced but is not persistently naturalized.
  3. (obsolete) Goods found of which the owner is not known; originally, such goods as a pursued thief threw away to prevent being apprehended, which belonged to the king unless the owner made pursuit of the felon, took him, and brought him to justice.
  4. (obsolete) Hence, anything found, or without an owner; that which comes along, as it were, by chance.
Related terms Translations Translations Translations
  • Spanish: hallazgo, bien mostrenco (formal, law)


waif (plural waifs)

  1. (informal, derogatory) A minor celebrity who does not deserve his or her fame.
    • 1996, Hester Lacey, She's left her wild-child self behind, learned from her multitude of mistakes and even got a proper job. So why do we hate her? (in The Independent, 19 October 1996)
      Tamara was one of the original wild-child tribe - up to now, famous mainly for being famous. She has done a quantity of high-profile dabbling in modelling, acting, television and journalism (file under MAW - Model, Actress, Whatever - or WAIF - Why Am I Famous?)
    • 2001, Harriet Lane, First The Word, now the pictures (in The Observer, 4 March 2001)
      Amanda was arguably the first WAIF (Why Am I Famous): young, posh, blonde, buxom and desperate for attention, she danced on nightclub tables in a rubber dress in 1987, much to the consternation of tabloid readers and the staff at her Wiltshire boarding school, who were under the impression she had been tucked up in her dormitory at the time.

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