Definitions

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

  • adjective Relating to or suggestive of an elf.
  • adjective Made, done, or produced by an elf.
  • adjective Small and sprightly or mischievous.
  • adjective Having a magical quality or charm; fairylike.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun An American lycænid butterfly of the genus Incisalia.
  • noun An elf; an inhabitant of fairy-land: in Spenser applied to his knights.
  • noun A little urchin or child.
  • noun Synonyms See fairy, n.
  • Relating or pertaining to elves.

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

  • adjective Relating to elves.
  • noun A little elf or urchin.

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

  • adjective Relating to or resembling an elf, especially in its tiny size or features.
  • noun An elf; an inhabitant of fairy-land.
  • noun A little urchin or child.

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

  • adjective usually good-naturedly mischievous
  • adjective relating to or made or done by or as if by an elf
  • adjective small and delicate
  • adjective suggestive of an elf in strangeness and otherworldliness

Etymologies

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

[Probably from Middle English elvene, pl. of elve, elf, from Old English -elfen (as in wuduelfen, dryad); see albho- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Partly from attributive use of Etymology 1, but reanalysed by Spenser as if equivalent to elf +‎ -en.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English elven, from Old English elfen, ælfen ("nymph, spirit, fairy"), diminutive of elf, ælf ("elf"), equivalent to elf +‎ -en. Cognate with Middle High German elbinne ("a fairy, nymph").

Examples

  • They were having a glorious time and their gay voices and gayer laughter echoed up and down the valley, dying away in elfin cadences among the trees.

    Rainbow Valley

  • Dacrycarpus imbricatus and Leptospermum flavescens are also abundant in these forests, which because of their smaller stature are called elfin forests.

    Sumatran montane rain forests

  • Roger Ferguson, then Fed vice chairman, described Greenspan at that January meeting as "the monetary policy Yoda," referring to the elfin guru in the movie "Star Wars."

    News - latimes.com

  • Chaparral, also called the elfin forest, survives in hot, dry conditions and features plants that have thick leaves to minimize water loss and animals that have thick fur to protect them from rough undergrowth.

    AroundTheCapitol.com

  • Paul, however, had a kind of elfin blond sparkle to him.

    Ken Doss, Khe Sanh. Part 1.

  • First up, David J. Nightingale's "elfin" shot of his daughter, which was voted one of the most Noteworthy Shots for 2004 on Photo Friday.

    Picture Envy #19 - Face the Face

  • First up, David J. Nightingale's "elfin" shot of his daughter, which was voted one of the most Noteworthy Shots for 2004 on Photo Friday.

    unbillable hours:

  • I always was thickset, "elfin" was never a possibility.

    A Disturbing Image

  • I always was thickset, "elfin" was never a possibility.

    Archive 2006-10-01

  • Medium height, the kind of face they called "elfin," with slanted ash-gray eyes and a bob of shoulder-length chrome-white hair.

    The Year's Best Science Fiction 23rd Annual Collection

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