- plural of elf.
noun, plural elves [elvz] /ɛlvz/.
- (in folklore) one of a class of preternatural beings, especially from mountainous regions, with magical powers, given to capricious and often mischievous interference in human affairs, and usually imagined to be a diminutive being in human form; sprite; fairy.
- a diminutive person, especially a child.
- a mischievous person, especially a child.
- an extremely dim, flattened, expanding, reddish glow briefly seen over a thunderstorm, due to electromagnetic pulses from intense lightning.
- the plural of elf
- extremely low frequency
noun plural elves (ɛlvz)
- (in folklore) one of a kind of legendary beings, usually characterized as small, manlike, and mischievous
- a mischievous or whimsical child
“one of a race of powerful supernatural beings in Germanic folklore,” Old English elf (Mercian, Kentish), ælf (Northumbrian), ylfe (plural, West Saxon), from Proto-Germanic *albiz (cf. Old Saxon alf, Old Norse alfr, German alp “evil spirit, goblin, incubus”), origin unknown, possibly from PIE *albho- “white.” Used figuratively for “mischievous person” from 1550s.
In addition to elf/ælf (masc.), Old English had parallel form *elfen (fem.), the plural of which was *elfenna, -elfen, from Proto-Germanic *albinjo-. Both words survived into Middle English and were active there, the former as elf (with the vowel of the plural), plural elves, the latter as elven, West Midlands dialect alven (plural elvene).
The Germanic elf originally was dwarfish and malicious (cf. Old English ælfadl “nightmare,” ælfsogoða “hiccup,” thought to be caused by elves); in the Middle Ages they were confused to some degree with faeries; the more noble version begins with Spenser. Nonetheless a popular component in Anglo-Saxon names, many of which survive as modern given names and surnames, cf. Ælfræd “Elf-counsel” (Alfred), Ælfwine “Elf-friend” (Alvin), Ælfric “Elf-ruler” (Eldridge), also women’s names such as Ælfflæd “Elf-beauty.” Elf Lock hair tangled, especially by Queen Mab, “which it was not fortunate to disentangle” [according to Robert Nares’ glossary of Shakespeare] is from 1592.
- An extremely dim, short-lived, expanding disk of reddish light above thunderstorms, believed to be caused by electromagnetic pulses from intense lightning in the lower ionosphere. Elves last less than a second and can be as wide as 500 km (310 mi) in diameter.
Often small, mischievous creatures thought to have magical powers. Although some elves are friendly to humans, others are spiteful and destructive. Elves have long been a staple of folklore, from Germanic mythology to J. R. R. Tolkien‘s The Lord of the Rings, in which the elves speak a special language called Elvish.