1. a child who has lost both parents through death, or, less commonly, one parent.
  2. a young animal that has been deserted by or has lost its mother.
  3. a person or thing that is without protective affiliation, sponsorship, etc.: The committee is an orphan of the previous administration.
  4. Printing.
    1. (especially in word processing) the first line of a paragraph when it appears alone at the bottom of a page.
    2. widow(def 3b).


  1. bereft of parents.
  2. of or for orphans: an orphan home.
  3. not authorized, supported, or funded; not part of a system; isolated; abandoned: an orphan research project.
  4. lacking a commercial sponsor, an employer, etc.: orphan workers.

verb (used with object)

  1. to deprive of parents or a parent through death: He was orphaned at the age of four.
  2. Informal. to deprive of commercial sponsorship, an employer, etc.: The recession has orphaned many experienced workers.


    1. a child, one or (more commonly) both of whose parents are dead
    2. (as modifier)an orphan child
  1. printing the first line of a paragraph separated from the rest of the paragraph by occurring at the foot of a page


  1. (tr) to deprive of one or both parents

v.1814, from orphan (n.). Related: Orphaned; orphaning. n.c.1300, from Late Latin orphanus “parentless child” (source of Old French orfeno, Italian orfano), from Greek orphanos “orphaned, without parents, fatherless,” literally “deprived,” from orphos “bereft,” from PIE *orbho- “bereft of father,” also “deprived of free status,” from root *orbh- “to change allegiance, to pass from one status to another” (cf. Hittite harb- “change allegiance,” Latin orbus “bereft,” Sanskrit arbhah “weak, child,” Armenian orb “orphan,” Old Irish orbe “heir,” Old Church Slavonic rabu “slave,” rabota “servitude” (cf. robot), Gothic arbja, German erbe, Old English ierfa “heir,” Old High German arabeit, German Arbeit “work,” Old Frisian arbed, Old English earfoĆ° “hardship, suffering, trouble”). As an adjective from late 15c.

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