from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A person with a usually genetic disorder resulting in atypically short stature and often disproportionate limbs.
  • noun An atypically small animal or plant.
  • noun A small creature resembling a human, often having magical powers, appearing in legends and fairy tales.
  • noun A dwarf star.
  • intransitive verb To check the natural growth or development of; stunt.
  • intransitive verb To cause to appear small by comparison.
  • intransitive verb To become stunted or grow smaller.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To hinder from growing to the natural size; make or keep small; prevent the due development of; stunt.
  • To cause to appear less than reality; cause to look or seem small by comparison; as, the cathedral dwarfs the houses around it.
  • To become less; become dwarfish or stunted.
  • noun A person of very small size; a human being much below the ordinary stature.
  • noun An animal or a plant much below the ordinary size of its species.
  • noun In Scand. myth., a diminutive and generally deformed being, dwelling in rocks and hills, and distinguished for skill in working metals.
  • Of small stature or size; of a size smaller than that common to its kind or species: as, a dwaf palm; dwarf trees.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun An animal or plant which is much below the ordinary size of its species or kind.
  • noun A diminutive human being, small in stature due to a pathological condition which causes a distortion of the proportions of body parts to each other, such as the limbs, torso, and head. A person of unusually small height who has normal body proportions is usually called a midget.
  • noun (Folklore) A small, usually misshapen person, typically a man, who may have magical powers; mythical dwarves were often depicted as living underground in caves.
  • noun (Bot.) danewort.
  • noun (Arch.) a low wall, not as high as the story of a building, often used as a garden wall or fence.
  • transitive verb To hinder from growing to the natural size; to make or keep small; to stunt.
  • intransitive verb To become small; to diminish in size.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A creature from (especially Scandinavian and other Germanic) folklore, usually depicted as having supernatural powers and being skilled in metalworking. Sometimes pluralized dwarves, especially in modern fantasy literature.
  • noun A person with short stature, often one whose limbs are disproportionately small in relation to the body as compared with normal adults, usually as the result of a genetic condition.
  • noun An animal, plant or other thing much smaller than the usual of its sort.
  • noun astronomy A star of relatively small size.
  • adjective Miniature.
  • verb transitive To render (much) smaller, turn into a dwarf (version).
  • verb transitive To make appear (much) smaller, puny, tiny.
  • verb transitive To make appear insignificant.
  • verb intransitive To become (much) smaller.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • verb make appear small by comparison
  • noun a plant or animal that is atypically small
  • noun a legendary creature resembling a tiny old man; lives in the depths of the earth and guards buried treasure
  • verb check the growth of
  • noun a person who is markedly small


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English dwerf, from Old English dweorh.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Via Middle English dwerf (variously spelt dwerf, dwergh and many other ways), from Old English dweorg (variously dweorg, dweorh, duerg before 900), from Proto-Germanic *dwergaz, cognate with Old High German twerc (German Zwerg), Old Norse dvergr (Swedish dvärg), Old Frisian dwirg, Middle Low German dwerch, dwarch, twerg (Low German Dwarg, Dwarch), Middle Dutch dwerch, dworch (Dutch dwerg). The Germanic word is perhaps from a Proto-Indo-European *dhu̯er- "harm, deceive"; compare Sanskrit dhvárati ("he bends, hurts"), dhvarás ("class of female demons").


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word dwarf.



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • There are only three words in the English language (I believe) that start with dw. Dwarf is but one.

    December 12, 2006

  • Dweeb, dwell, and dwindle; dwaible, dwale, dwalm, dwang, dwile, and dwine.

    December 3, 2007

  • Does that mean Josiah Bartlet lied to me?

    December 3, 2007

  • As much as I love the Century Dictionary, there are times when its nonchalance frightens me:

    "In ancient, medieval, and later times, dwarfs have been in demand as personal attendants upon ladies and noblemen; and the ancient Romans practised methods of dwarfing persons artificially."

    March 29, 2011

  • Perhaps being a dwarf in ancient Rome wasn't so bad. I mean, with a promotional photo from the right perspective you could probably pass off your iPhone as being an iTablet.

    March 29, 2011

  • Another corker from the C.D. I like the specificity of "persons".

    March 29, 2011

  • Also, I find Wiktionary's "A star of relatively small size" to be a far more useful definition than AHD's "A dwarf star".

    March 30, 2011