See also: Elf and ELF

English

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English Wikipedia has an article on:
Wikipedia
 
An elf drawn by Piedachu Peris

Alternative forms

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Etymology

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From Middle English elf, from Old English ielf, ælf, from Proto-West Germanic *albi, from Proto-Germanic *albiz. Ultimately probably derived from Proto-Indo-European *h₂elbʰós (white). Doublet of alf and oaf.

Pronunciation

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  • enPR: ĕlf, IPA(key): /ɛlf/
  • Audio (US):(file)
  • Rhymes: -ɛlf

Noun

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elf (plural elves or (now nonstandard) elfs)

  1. (Norse mythology) A luminous spirit presiding over nature and fertility and dwelling in the world of Álfheim (Elfland). Compare angel, nymph, fairy.
    • 1579, E. K., “[Iune. Ægloga Sexta.] Glosse.”, in Immeritô [pseudonym; Edmund Spenser], The Shepheardes Calender: [], London: [] Hugh Singleton, [], →OCLC; reprinted as H[einrich] Oskar Sommer, editor, The Shepheardes Calender [], London: John C. Nimmo, [], 1890, →OCLC, folio 25, recto:
      [] if theyr children at any time vvere frowarde and vvanton, they would ſay to them that the Guelfe or the Gibeline came. VVhich vvords novve from them (as many thinge els) be come into our vſage, and for Guelfes and Gibelines, we ſay Elfes & Goblins.
      The extensive commentaries and glosses included with the work are ascribed to an “E. K.”, who is sometimes assumed to be an alias of Spenser himself.
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, “Book III, Canto III”, in The Faerie Queene. [], London: [] [John Wolfe] for William Ponsonbie, →OCLC, page 433:
      The man whom heauens haue ordaynd to bee / The ſpouſe of Britomart, is Arthegall: / He wonneth in the land of Fayeree, / Yet is no Fary borne, ne ſib at all / To Elfes, but ſprong of ſeed terreſtriall, / And whylome by falſe Faries ſtolne away, / Whyles yet in infant cradle he did crall; / Ne other to himſelfe is knowne this day, / But that he by an Elfe was gotten of a Fay.
    • 1594, Tho[mas] Nashe, The Terrors of the Night or, A Discourse of Apparitions, London: [] Iohn Danter for William Iones, []:
      Their Robbin-good-fellowes, Elfes, Fairies, Hobgoblins of our latter age, which idolatrous former daies and the fantasticall world of Greece ycleaped Fawnes, Satyres, Dryades & Hamadryades, did most of their merry prankes in the Night.
    • c. 1595–1596 (date written), William Shakespeare, “A Midsommer Nights Dreame”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act V, scene ii]:
      Every elf, and fairy sprite, / Hop as light as bird from brier.
    • 1649, ΕΙΚΩΝ Ἡ ΠΙΣΤΗ. Or, The Faithfull Pourtraicture of a Loyall Subject, in Vindication of ΕΙΚΏΝ ΒΑΣΙΛΙΚΉ. [], page 16:
      [] I had rather have a Child which my Wife ſhould bring me, though by another man, then to have a Changeling brought me by a company of Fairies, Elfs and Goblins: []
    • 1657, Peter Heylyn, Cosmographie in Four Books. Containing the Chorographie and Historie of the Whole World, and All the Principal Kingdoms, Provinces, Seas, and Isles Thereof., 2nd edition, London: [] Henry Seile, [], page 131:
      The quarrel ſpreading into parties, called the Guelfs and the Gibellines, became at laſt the wonder and amazement of all good people: inſomuch as ſome are of opinion, that the fiction of the Elfs and Goblins, wherewith we uſe to fright young children, was derived from hence.
    • 1678, The Shepherds Calendar: Containing Twelve Æglogues, Proportionable to the Twelve Months. [], London: [] Henry Hills for Jonathan Edwin, [], page 26:
      The opinion of Fairies and Elfs is very old, and yet ſticketh very religiously in the minds of ſome. But to root that rank opinion of Elfs out of mens hearts, the truth is, that there be no ſuch things, nor yet the ſhadows of the things, but only by a ſort of bald Friers and knaviſh ſhavelings ſo faigned; []
    • a. 1690, William Cleland, A Collection of Several Poems and Verses, Composed upon Various Occasions, published 1697, page 59:
      For there and ſeveral other places / About mill dams and green brae faces, / Both Elrich, Elfs and Brownies ſtayed, / And Green gown’d Farries daunc’d and played; []
    • 1700, [John] Dryden, “The Wife of Bath Her Tale [by Geoffrey Chaucer]”, in Fables Ancient and Modern; [], London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], →OCLC, page 479:
      IN Days of Old when Arthur fill’d the Throne, / Whoſe Acts and Fame to Foreign Lands were blown; / The King of Elfs and little Fairy Queen / Gamboll’d on Heaths, and danc’d on ev’ry Green.
    • 1717, Laurence Eusden, “Book IV. [The Transformation of the Theban Matrons.]”, in Ovid’s Metamorphoses in Fifteen Books. [], London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], →OCLC, page 127:
      This Juno heard; And ſhall ſuch Elfs, ſhe cry’d, / Diſpute my Juſtice, or my Pow’r deride?
    • 1760, Andrew Brice, “TUSCANY”, in The Grand Gazetteer; or, Topographic Dictionary, &c., page 1322, column 1:
      [] the Devaſtations under the Goths, Guelphs, and Gibelines [whence ſome would derive the Terms of Elfs (or Elves) or Fairies, and Goblins (or Hobgoblins) or Spectres, &c.] []
    • 1802, J[ames] Sibbald, “Glossary; or An Explanation of Ancient Scottish Words”, in Chronicle of Scottish Poetry; from the Thirteenth Century, to the Union of the Crowns: To Which Is Added a Glossary, volume IV, Edinburgh: [] [F]or J. Sibbald, [], [b]y C. Stewart & Co. []:
      Farefolkis, fairies, elfs, or elves; []
    • 1850, Matthew Stewart, Remarks on the Subject of Language, with Some Observations in the Form of Notes, Illustrative of the Information Which Language May Afford of the History and Opinions of Mankind, London: [] Richard and John Edward Taylor, [], for, [] the Author, page 14:
      These Picts are the Clan Alpin, the Alps, or Elfs or Elves,—[]
    • 1850, Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Elf-Child and the Minister”, in The Scarlet Letter, a Romance, Boston, Mass.: Ticknor, Reed, and Fields, →OCLC, page 130:
      Prithee, young one, who art thou, and what has ailed thy mother to bedizen thee in this strange fashion? Art thou a Christian child,—ha? Dost know thy catechism? Or art thou one of those naughty elfs or fairies, whom we thought to have left behind us, with other relics of Papistry, in merry old England?
    • 1852, William Bell, Shakespeare’s Puck, and His Folkslore, Illustrated from the Superstitions of All Nations, but More Especially from the Earliest Religion and Rites of Northern Europe and the Wends, London, page 58:
      The next species of these airy nothings are the elfs, or elves; []
    • 1868, S[abine] Baring-Gould, “The Piper of Hameln”, in Curious Myths of the Middle Ages, second series, Philadelphia, Pa.: J[oshua] B[allinger] Lippincott & Co.; London: Rivingtons, page 173:
      The Arbhus became in Teutonic mythology the Alben, Elben or Elfen, our Elfs, and in Scandinavian the Alfar.
    • 1868, David Hume, William Cooke Stafford, The History of England, from the Earliest Period to the Present Time; Compiled from the Most Authentic Sources, volume I, London, New York, N.Y.: The London Printing and Publishing Company, Limited, page 53, column 1:
      The elfs or elves were inhabitants of the fields and groves, the progenitors of the fairies of the middle ages; []
    • 1877, Sidney Lanier, “The Hard Times in Elfland. A Story of Christmas Eve.”, in [Mary Lanier], editor, Poems of Sidney Lanier, New York, N.Y.: Charles Scribner’s Sons, published 1884, page 159:
      Since you’ve been out, the news arrives / The Elfs’ Insurance Company’s gone.
    • 1879, William Henderson, “Index”, in Notes on the Folk-Lore of the Northern Counties of England and the Borders. [], London: [] [F]or the Folk-Lore Society by W. Satchell, Peyton and Co., [], page 364:
      Eve, Danish legend of her concealing her unwashed children, from whom come elfs, trolls, &c.
    • 1889 May, “[Literary Notices.] The Folk-Lore of Plants. By T. F. Thiselton Dyer. []”, in Popular Science, page 128, column 1:
      Much of fairy lore clusters around the so-called fairy rings, that is, the green circles in old pastures within which the elfs were supposed to dance at night by the light of the moon.
    • 1903, Henry Yule, A[rthur] C[oke] Burnell, “NAT, s.”, in edited by William Crooke, Hobson-Jobson: A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases, and of Kindred Terms, Etymological, Historical, Geographical and Discursive, London: John Murray, [], page 619, column 2:
      NAT, []; a term applied to all spiritual beings, angels, elfs, demons, or what not, including the gods of the Hindus.
    • 1917 November, Elizabeth Clendenning Ring, “Florence Earle Coates: Some Phases of Her Life and Poetry”, in The Book News Monthly, volume 36, page 109, column 1:
      Elfs and fays, from their haunts in the mountains, whistle their eerie ballads above the gray roof of “Dove Cottage,” and dance their ghostly jigs on the huge hearthstone, among whose blazing logs the Fire God paints his immortal canvases, with colorings splendid beyond the dream of man.
    • 2010, Heilan Yvette Grimes, The Norse Myths, Hollow Earth Publishing, →ISBN, page 254:
      Alfs [elfs]: Another name for the elfs or elves.
  2. Any from a race of mythical, supernatural beings resembling but seen as distinct from human beings. They are usually delicate-featured and skilled in magic or spellcrafting; sometimes depicted as clashing with dwarves, especially in modern fantasy literature.
    • 1882 October 7, “The Life of George Cruikshank: in Two Epochs. By Blanchard Jerrold. []”, in The Athenæum: Journal of Literature, Science, the Fine Arts, Music, and the Drama, number 2867, London: [] John C. Francis, [], page 471, column 1:
      We may add, and our author has knowledge of the fact, that not even the Germans, those masterly delineators and imaginators of fairy-land, have shown greater or more exquisite insight into the lives and ways of elfs and fays than that which was shown by George Cruikshank.
    • 1886, Peter Christen Asbjørnsen, translated by H.L. Brækstad, Folk and Fairy Tales, page 281:
      All the fairy tales of my childhood were conjured up before my startled imagination, and appeared to be realised in the forms which surrounded me; I saw the whole forest filled with trolls, elves, and sporting dwarfs.
  3. (fantasy) Any of the magical, typically forest-guarding races bearing some similarities to the Norse álfar (through Tolkien's Eldar).
  4. A very diminutive person; a dwarf.[1]
  5. (South Africa) The bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix).

Usage notes

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The plural elves has always been more common than elfs.[2] Elfs was notably used by Edmund Spenser (1579?; 1590; as elfes), Thomas Nashe (1594; as elfes), Peter Heylyn (1657), William Cleland (a. 1690), John Dryden (1700), Laurence Eusden (1717), Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850), Sabine Baring-Gould (1868), Sidney Lanier (1877), and Paul Laurence Dunbar (1905). Some writers, including Andrew Brice (1760) and James Sibbald (1802), provided both plurals. Elfs was first listed as an alternative plural in A Dictionary of the English Language in 1818;[3] others such as James Knowles’s A Pronouncing and Explanatory Dictionary of the English Language (1835),[4] James Bamford’s Elements of English Grammar (1844),[5] and Henry Elliot Shepherd’s A Grammar of the English Language (1883)[6] followed;[7] but it gradually decreased in use and is now mostly[8][9][10][11] considered nonstandard.

Synonyms

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  • (supernatural creature): See goblin (hostile); fairy (small, mischievous)

Hyponyms

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Derived terms

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Descendants

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  • Arabic: إِلْف (ʔilf)
  • Dutch: elf
  • French: elfe
  • German: Elf, Elfe
  • Japanese: エルフ (erufu)
  • Korean: 엘프 (elpeu)
  • Russian: эльф (elʹf)
  • Ukrainian: ельф (elʹf)

Translations

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Verb

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elf (third-person singular simple present elfs, present participle elfing, simple past and past participle elfed)

  1. (now rare) To twist into elflocks (of hair); to mat.
    • c. 1603–1606, William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of King Lear”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, (please specify the act number in uppercase Roman numerals, and the scene number in lowercase Roman numerals):
      My face I'll grime with filth, blanket my loins, elf all my hairs in knots, and with presented nakedness outface the winds and persecutions of the sky.

See also

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References

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  1. ^ elf”, in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, Springfield, Mass.: G. & C. Merriam, 1913, →OCLC.
  2. ^ elfs,elues,elves at Google Ngram Viewer
  3. ^ H[enry] J[ohn] Todd, editor (1818), “ELF.† n. s.”, in A Dictionary of the English Language; [], volume II, London: [] Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown:plural elfs and elves.
  4. ^ James Knowles (1835) “ELF, e(7)lf´, n.”, in A Pronouncing and Explanatory Dictionary of the English Language. [], London: F. de Porquet and Cooper, []; Oliver and Boyd, Edinburgh; and Webb, Dublin, page 241, column 1:Pl. elfs and elves.
  5. ^ James Bamford (1844) Elements of English Grammar, Simplified, page 53:Elf changes in the plural into elfs or elves; []
  6. ^ Henry E[lliot] Shepherd (1883) “Nouns”, in A Grammar of the English Language, Baltimore, Md.: John B. Piet & Co., page 19:
    In words ending in f, of native origin, preceded by a long vowel sound, except oo, and in words ending in lf, the f is converted into its kindred letter, v, and the plural is formed by the addition of es; as, leaf, leaves; sheaf, sheaves; shelf, shelves. Under this rule also falls beef, beeves, which is of French origin. To this general rule, the great diversity of English usage will furnish exceptions; thus we have both elfs and elves, shelfs and shelves.
  7. ^ K. T. B. (1885) “On the Plural of Substantives in English”, in Taalstudie. Tweemaandelijksch tijdschrift voor de studie der nieuwe talen., Blom & Olivierse, page 89:
    Wherever this struggle has not come to an end, both plural forms are occasionally found, as in elfs and elves, shelfs and shelves, wharfs and wharves (the dirty stream that ran oilily about the wharves; Murray: Life’s Atonement, II, 77), turfs and turves, mastiffs and mastives.
  8. ^ Norman Foerster, J. M. Steadman, Jr. (1941) Writing and Thinking, pages 268–269:Nouns ending in -f are so variable in the plural (loaf: loaves, but chief: chiefs; dwarf: dwarfs; elf: elfs or elves) that one should be guided by the pronunciation of the plural, or, better still, should consult the dictionary when in doubt.
  9. ^ Bertha M. Watts (1944) Modern Grammar at Work, Houghton Mifflin, page 96:
    A very few nouns ending in -f or -fe may be pluralized either by adding -s or by changing f or fe to v and adding -es: “scarf,” “scarfs” or “scarves”; “wharf,” “wharfs” or “wharves”; “staff,” “staffs” or “staves”; “elf,” “elfs” or “elves”; “hoof,” “hoofs” or “hooves.”
  10. ^ Morton S. Freeman (1983) A Treasury for Word Lovers, Philadelphia, Pa.: ISI Press, →ISBN, page 225:Others have been dignified with two forms, both in good usage—elfs and elves, hoofs and hooves, scarfs and scarves, staffs and staves.
  11. ^ Steve Ettlinger (1990) The Complete Illustrated Guide to Everything Sold in Garden Centers (Except the Plants), Macmillan Publishing Company, →ISBN:also known as: Dwarfs, dwarves, elfs, elves, trolls, leprechauns
  • Marshall Jones Company (1930). Mythology of All Races Series, Volume 2 Eddic, Great Britain: Marshall Jones Company, 1930, pp. 220-221.

Anagrams

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Afrikaans

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Afrikaans numbers (edit)
 ←  10 11 12  → 
    Cardinal: elf
    Ordinal: elfde, elfste
    Ordinal abbreviation: 11de

Etymology

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From Dutch elf, from Middle Dutch ellef, elf, from Old Dutch *ellef, from Proto-Germanic *ainalif.

Pronunciation

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Numeral

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elf

  1. eleven

Catalan

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Noun

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elf m (plural elfs)

  1. elf

Czech

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Pronunciation

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Noun

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elf m anim

  1. elf

Declension

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Derived terms

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Further reading

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  • elf in Příruční slovník jazyka českého, 1935–1957
  • elf in Slovník spisovného jazyka českého, 1960–1971, 1989

Dutch

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Pronunciation

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Etymology 1

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From Middle Dutch ellef, elf, from Old Dutch *ellef, from Proto-Germanic *ainalif, a compound of *ainaz and *-lif. Compare German elf, West Frisian alve, English eleven, Danish elleve.

Numeral

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Dutch numbers (edit)
 ←  10 11 12  → 
    Cardinal: elf
    Ordinal: elfde

elf

  1. eleven

Noun

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elf f (plural elven, diminutive elfje n)

  1. The number eleven, or a representation thereof.
Descendants
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Etymology 2

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Borrowed from German Elf, itself borrowed from English elf, from Old English ælf, from Proto-West Germanic *albi, from Proto-Germanic *albiz. Displaced native alf, from the same Germanic source.

Noun

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elf m (plural elfen or elven, diminutive elfje n, feminine elve or elfin)

  1. elf, brownie (small folkloric creature)
  2. (fantasy) elf (humanoid pointy-eared creature in fantasy)
Synonyms
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  • (mythical being): alf
Derived terms
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Descendants
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  • Papiamentu: èlfye (from the diminutive)

Anagrams

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Dutch Low Saxon

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Etymology

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From Low German, from Middle Low German elvene, from Old Saxon ellevan. Related to German elf.

Numeral

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elf

  1. eleven (11)

German

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German numbers (edit)
 ←  10 11 12  → 
    Cardinal: elf
    Ordinal: elfte
    Sequence adverb: elftens
    Ordinal abbreviation: 11.
    Adverbial: elfmal
    Adverbial abbreviation: 11-mal
    Multiplier: elffach
    Multiplier abbreviation: 11-fach
    Fractional: Elftel
    Polygon: Elfeck
    Polygon abbreviation: 11-Eck
    Polygonal adjective: elfeckig
    Polygonal adjective abbreviation: 11-eckig

Alternative forms

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Etymology

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From Middle High German eilf, eilef, einlif, from Old High German einlif, from Proto-Germanic *ainalif, a compound of *ainaz and *-lif. Until the 19th century usually written eilf; the monophthongal form is of Central and Low German origin (Middle Low German elf). Compare Dutch elf, West Frisian alve, English eleven, Danish elleve.

Pronunciation

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Numeral

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elf

  1. (cardinal number) eleven

Coordinate terms

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Derived terms

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Further reading

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  • elf” in Digitales Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache
  • elf” in Uni Leipzig: Wortschatz-Lexikon
  • elf” in Duden online
  •   elf on the German Wikipedia.Wikipedia de

German Low German

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Alternative forms

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Etymology

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From Middle Low German elvene, from Old Saxon ellevan.

Numeral

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elf

  1. eleven

Lombard

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Etymology

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From English elf.

Pronunciation

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  • IPA(key): /ɛlf/
  • Hyphenation: elf

Noun

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elf m (masculine plural elf, feminine singular elfa, feminine plural elfe) (New Lombard Orthography)

  1. (Norse mythology) elf
  2. (fantasy) elf

Derived terms

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Maltese

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Maltese numbers (edit)
10,000
 ←  100  ←  900 1,000 2,000  →  10,000  → 
100
    Cardinal: elf

Etymology

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From Arabic أَلْف (ʔalf).

Pronunciation

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Numeral

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elf m or f (dual elfejn, plural eluf or elufijiet, paucal elef)

  1. thousand

Middle English

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Alternative forms

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Etymology

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From Old English elf, Anglian form of ælf, from Proto-West Germanic *albi, from Proto-Germanic *albiz, from Proto-Indo-European *h₂elbʰós (white).

Pronunciation

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Noun

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elf (plural elves)

  1. elf, fairy
    • c. 1450, Wars of Alexander[1], Corpus of Middle English Prose and Verse, passus 24, line 5258:
      Scho was so faire & so fresche · as faucon hire semed, / An elfe out of an-othire erde · or ellis an Aungell
      She was so fair and beautiful; her elegance seemed like / An elf out of another world, or else an angel.
    • c. 1450, “The Second Shepherds' Play”, in The Towneley Plays[2], Corpus of Middle English Prose and Verse, line 616:
      he was takyn with an elfe / I saw it myself / when the clok stroke twelf / was he forshapyn
      He was taken by an elf; I saw it myself. / When the clock struck twelve, he was transfigured.
  2. spirit, shade
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Descendants

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  • English: elf (see there for further descendants)
  • Scots: elf
  • Yola: elf

References

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Pennsylvania German

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Pennsylvania German cardinal numbers
 <  10 11 12  > 
    Cardinal : elf
    Ordinal : elft

Etymology

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From Rhine Franconian, from Old High German einlif. Compare German elf, Dutch elf, English eleven.

Pronunciation

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Numeral

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elf

  1. eleven

Polish

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Polish Wikipedia has an article on:
Wikipedia pl

Etymology

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Borrowed from German Elf.

Pronunciation

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Noun

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elf m animal (diminutive elfik)

  1. elf (mythical or fantasy creature)

Usage notes

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Declension

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Derived terms

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adjective

Further reading

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  • elf in Wielki słownik języka polskiego, Instytut Języka Polskiego PAN
  • elf in Polish dictionaries at PWN

Romanian

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Etymology

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Borrowed from French elfe.

Noun

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elf m (plural elfi)

  1. elf

Declension

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Swedish

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Noun

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elf c

  1. Obsolete spelling of älv.

Declension

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Declension of elf 
Singular Plural
Indefinite Definite Indefinite Definite
Nominative elf elfven elfvar elfvarna
Genitive elfs elfvens elfvars elfvarnas

Yola

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Etymology

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From Middle English elf, from Old English ielf, from Proto-West Germanic *albi.

Pronunciation

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Noun

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elf (plural elvès)

  1. fairy

References

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  • Jacob Poole (d. 1827) (before 1828) William Barnes, editor, A Glossary, With some Pieces of Verse, of the old Dialect of the English Colony in the Baronies of Forth and Bargy, County of Wexford, Ireland, London: J. Russell Smith, published 1867, page 38