Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
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”).
elfin (plural elfins)
- Relating to or resembling an elf, especially in its tiny size or features.
1914, Louis Joseph Vance, chapter 1, Nobody:
- Three chairs of the steamer type, all maimed, comprised the furniture of this roof-garden, with […] on one of the copings a row of four red clay flower-pots filled with sun-baked dust from which gnarled and rusty stalks thrust themselves up like withered elfin limbs.
2012 May 24, Nathan Rabin, “Film: Reviews: Men In Black 3”, The Onion AV Club:
- He’s forced to travel back to 1969 to prevent an evil alien (a shockingly effective, nearly unrecognizable Jemaine Clement of Flight Of The Conchords, playing sort of a psychotic extraterrestrial-biker serial killer) from destroying the world by killing Brolin. Smith is aided in his quest by an elfin, time-jumping alien with psychic powers played by another Coen brothers veteran, A Serious Man star Michael Stuhlbarg.