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 𐌰𐍂𐌱𐌹 (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.