From Late Latin orphanus, from Ancient Greek ὀρφανός (orphanós, “without parents, fatherless”), from Proto-Indo-European *h₃órbʰos. Cognate with Sanskrit अर्भ (árbha), Latin orbus (“orphaned”), Old High German erbi, arbi (German Erbe (“heir”)), Old English ierfa (“heir”). More at erf.
orphan (plural orphans)
- A person, especially a minor, both or (rarely) one of whose parents have died.
- A person, especially a minor, whose parents have permanently abandoned them.
- A young animal with no mother.
- (figuratively) Anything that is unsupported, as by its source, provider or caretaker, by reason of the supporter's demise or decision to abandon.
- (typography) A single line of type, beginning a paragraph, at the bottom of a column or page.
- (computing) Any unreferenced object.
orphan (not comparable)
- Deprived of parents (also orphaned).
She is an orphan child.
- (by extension, figuratively) 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?
- (transitive, computing) 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.