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

  • n. A child whose parents are dead.
  • n. A child who has been deprived of parental care and has not been adopted.
  • n. A young animal without a mother.
  • n. One that lacks support, supervision, or care: A lack of corporate interest has made the subsidiary an orphan.
  • n. An orphan technology or product.
  • n. A line of type beginning a new paragraph at the bottom of a column or page.
  • n. A short line of type at the bottom of a paragraph, column, or page; a widow.
  • adj. Deprived of parents.
  • adj. Intended for orphans: an orphan home.
  • adj. Lacking support, supervision, or care.
  • adj. Not developed or marketed, especially on account of being commercially unprofitable: "an aggregation of every orphan technology at the Pentagon, stuff that's been around for years that nobody would buy” ( Harper's).
  • transitive v. To deprive (a child or young animal) of a parent or parents.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A person, especially a minor, both or (rarely) one of whose parents have died.
  • n. A young animal with no mother.
  • n. Anything that is unsupported, as by its source, provider or caretaker, by reason of the supporter's demise or decision to abandon.
  • n. A single line of type, beginning a paragraph, at the bottom of a column or page.
  • n. Any unreferenced object.
  • adj. Deprived of parents (also orphaned).
  • adj. Remaining after the removal of some form of support.
  • v. To deprive of parents (used almost exclusively in the passive)
  • v. (computing) To make unavailable, as by unlinking the last remaining pointer to.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Bereaved of parents, or (sometimes) of one parent.
  • n. A child bereaved of both father and mother; sometimes, also, a child who has but one parent living.
  • transitive v. To cause to become an orphan; to deprive of parents.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Bereft of parents; fatherless, motherless, or without either father or mother; bereaved: said of a child or a young and dependent person.
  • Not under control or protection analogous to that of a parent; unprotected; unassisted.
  • Of or belonging to a child bereft of either parent or of both parents.
  • n. A child bereaved of one parent or of both parents, generally the latter.
  • To reduce to the state of being an orphan; bereave of parents.

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

  • n. someone or something who lacks support or care or supervision
  • n. a young animal without a mother
  • n. the first line of a paragraph that is set as the last line of a page or column
  • n. a child who has lost both parents
  • v. deprive of parents


Middle English, from Late Latin orphanus, from Greek orphanos, orphaned.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Late Latin orphanus, from Ancient Greek ὀρφανός (orphanos, "without parents, fatherless"), from Proto-Indo-European *Hórbʰo-. Cognate with Sanskrit अर्भ (árbha), Latin orbus ("orphaned"), Old High German erbi, arbi (German Erbe ("heir")), Old English ierfa ("heir"). More at erf. (Wiktionary)


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  • saw the movie orphan and thats where i saw it

    October 31, 2010

  • "To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness."
    -Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

    July 29, 2009

  • Not to be mistaken for 'often'.

    August 20, 2008