Orphan vs. Waif: What's the Difference?
An orphan is a child whose parents are deceased or have abandoned them, while a waif is generally anyone, often a child, who is homeless or neglected, but not necessarily parentless.
An orphan is specifically a child who has lost both parents through death, or less commonly, abandonment. The term is often used in legal contexts to describe the status of a minor who needs to be placed under guardianship. A waif, on the other hand, can be a child or even an adult who is homeless, neglected, or has no home or friends, but may still have living parents.
The term "orphan" is often seen as a more formal term, frequently used in legal or official documents to signify a child who has lost both parents and is in need of guardianship. "Waif" carries more romantic or poetic connotations, often used in literature or everyday language to depict a forlorn or abandoned person without specifying the absence of parents.
An orphan may or may not be homeless or neglected. There are institutional structures, like orphanages, designed to care for orphans. A waif, conversely, implies not just parentlessness but also homelessness or neglect, often wandering and fending for oneself.
In summary, while both terms could describe a child without a stable home, "orphan" focuses on the absence of parents specifically, often with legal implications. "Waif" is a broader term that can imply a range of difficult living conditions, including but not limited to, being an orphan.
Child without parents
Anyone who is homeless or neglected
Usually a minor
Can be a child or adult
Often used legally
Seldom used legally
May or may not be neglected
Usually implies neglect
Parents are deceased or have abandoned them
Parents may be alive but not present
Orphan and Waif Definitions
A child whose parents have died
The orphan was taken into foster care.
A stray animal or object
The dog was a waif, picked up from the alley.
A child abandoned by parents
The orphan roamed the streets alone.
In literature, often a romantic or poetic figure
The novel depicted her as a waif in a cruel world.
Used in a broader sense for anyone who feels alone or abandoned
He felt like an orphan in the big city.
A very thin or undernourished person
The waif-like model walked down the runway.
In technology, a term for unlinked or abandoned data
The software left orphan files on the computer.
Something found and unclaimed
The antique was a waif from an estate sale.
In typography, the first line of a paragraph left alone at the bottom of a page
The book was poorly formatted with many orphans.
A homeless person, especially a forsaken or orphaned child.
A child whose parents are dead.
An abandoned young animal.
A child who has been deprived of parental care and has not been adopted.
A person, especially a young woman, who is thin or gaunt.
A young animal that has been prematurely separated from its parents or its mother.
Something found and unclaimed, as an object cast up by the sea.
One that lacks support, supervision, or care
A lack of corporate interest has made the subsidiary an orphan.
A technology or product that has not been developed or marketed, especially on account of being commercially unprofitable.
Often in the form waif and stray, waifs and strays: an article of movable property found of which the owner is not known, such as goods washed up on a beach or thrown away by an absconding thief; such items belong to the Crown, which may grant the right of ownership to them to a lord of a manor.
(Printing) A very short line of type at the bottom of a paragraph, column, or page.
Deprived of parents.
Something found, especially if without an owner; something which comes along, as it were, by chance.
Intended for orphans
An orphan home.
A person (especially a child) who is homeless and without means of support; also, a person excluded from society; an outcast.
Lacking support, supervision, or care.
(by extension) A very thin person.
Being a technology or product that is an orphan.
A plant introduced in a place outside its native range but is not persistently naturalized.
To deprive (a child or young animal) of a parent or parents.
A small flag used as a signal.
A person, especially a minor, both or (rarely) one of whose parents have died.
Something (such as clouds or smoke) carried aloft by the wind.
A person, especially a minor, whose parents have permanently abandoned them.
(transitive) To cast aside or reject, and thus make a waif.
A young animal with no mother.
Goods found of which the owner is not known; originally, such goods as a pursued thief threw away to prevent being apprehended, which belonged to the king unless the owner made pursuit of the felon, took him, and brought him to justice.
(figuratively) Anything that is unsupported, as by its source, provider or caretaker, by reason of the supporter's demise or decision to abandon.
Hence, anything found, or without an owner; that which comes along, as it were, by chance.
(typography) A single line of type, beginning a paragraph, at the bottom of a column or page.
A wanderer; a castaway; a stray; a homeless child.
A waifDesirous to return, and not received.
(computing) Any unreferenced object.
A homeless child especially one forsaken or orphaned;
Street children beg or steal in order to survive
Deprived of parents (also orphaned).
She is an orphan child.
A homeless or neglected person
The waif was found wandering the streets.
Remaining after the removal of some form of support.
With its government funding curtailed, the gun registry became an orphan program.
(transitive) To deprive of parents used almost exclusively in the passive
What do you do when you come across two orphaned polar bear cubs?
To make unavailable, as by removing the last remaining pointer or reference to.
When you removed that image tag, you orphaned the resized icon.
Removing categories orphans pages from the main category tree.
A child bereaved of both father and mother; sometimes, also, a child who has but one parent living.
Bereaved of parents, or (sometimes) of one parent.
To cause to become an orphan; to deprive of parents.
A child who has lost both parents
Someone or something who lacks support or care or supervision
The first line of a paragraph that is set as the last line of a page or column
A young animal without a mother
Deprive of parents
Deprived of parents by death or desertion
Can a waif have parents?
Yes, a waif can have living parents but is generally neglected or homeless.
Is the term 'orphan' legal?
Yes, 'orphan' is often used in legal contexts to describe a child's status.
Does waif imply homelessness?
Generally, yes, a waif is often homeless or neglected.
Is the term 'waif' legal?
No, 'waif' is seldom used in legal documents and has a more poetic or literary connotation.
Can objects be waifs?
Yes, the term waif can apply to objects that are found and unclaimed.
What does orphan mean?
An orphan is a child whose parents have died or abandoned them.
Is every orphan a waif?
No, an orphan may have a guardian or be in an institution and not be neglected or homeless.
What does waif mean?
A waif is generally anyone, often a child, who is homeless or neglected.
Does orphan imply homelessness?
No, an orphan may be under institutional or guardian care.
Which term is broader, orphan or waif?
Waif is broader as it can refer to anyone neglected or homeless, regardless of parentage.
Can animals be orphans?
Yes, in common parlance, young animals without parents can be called orphans.
Is the term 'waif' used in fashion?
Yes, "waif" has been used to describe a very thin or undernourished model.
Can an adult be an orphan?
Technically, the term "orphan" refers to a minor, but it can be used colloquially for adults who lost their parents.
Can an adult be a waif?
Yes, adults can be described as waifs, especially if they are homeless or neglected.
Is the term 'orphan' used in technology?
Yes, "orphan" can refer to unlinked or abandoned data or files.
Written bySawaira Riaz
Sawaira is a dedicated content editor at difference.wiki, where she meticulously refines articles to ensure clarity and accuracy. With a keen eye for detail, she upholds the site's commitment to delivering insightful and precise content.
Edited bySumera Saeed
Sumera is an experienced content writer and editor with a niche in comparative analysis. At Diffeence Wiki, she crafts clear and unbiased comparisons to guide readers in making informed decisions. With a dedication to thorough research and quality, Sumera's work stands out in the digital realm. Off the clock, she enjoys reading and exploring diverse cultures.