From Middle English erfe, erve, from Old English yrfe, ierfe (“heritage, bequest, inheritance, property, inherited property, property that passes to an heir, cattle, livestock”), from Proto-Germanic *arbiją (“heritage”), from Proto-Indo-European *h₃erbʰ- (“to change ownership”) (from which also *h₃órbʰos (“orphan”)). Cognate with Dutch erf (“inheritance, patrimony, ground, courtyard”), German Erbe (“heritage, legacy, inheritance”), Danish arv (“heritage, inheritance”), Swedish arv (“heritage, inheritance”), Gothic [script?] (arbi, “inheritance”), Latin orbus (“orphan”), Ancient Greek ὀρφανός (orphanós, “orphan”), Old English ierfa (“heir”). Related to orf.
erf (plural erfs)
- (US regional, Cape Colony, New York) A small inherited house-and-garden lot in a village or settlement.