Definition of foundling in English:



  • An infant that has been abandoned by its parents and is discovered and cared for by others.

    • ‘The camp was built exclusively for summer use, with no heating, and the foundlings nearly froze as they camped out.’
    • ‘She had a friend who was abandoned at birth, a foundling, and she began to realise that abandoned children were in a far worse position than adopted ones.’
    • ‘What has changed is that today such foundlings are not bound for a life in the workhouse or orphanage, but often face a more secure future than if they had stayed with their natural mothers.’
    • ‘To deceive the governors the women sometimes presented their own babies for inspection, so the hospital began branding the foundlings on the arm to ensure proper identification.’
    • ‘He fostered many of the hospital foundlings and donated numerous paintings to the hospital's collection, establishing a permanent picture gallery.’
    • ‘Ginger Rogers plays a department store clerk who is mistakenly identified as the mother of an infant foundling.’
    • ‘The hospital was the parent of all foundlings admitted until they reached the age of 21, overseers and other local officials having no power in the hospital.’
    • ‘But only this morning, 12 new foundlings were left at the orphanage door, just as funds are again quite low.’
    • ‘One of the most graphic indicators of the growth in poverty was the rise in the number of foundlings and abandoned children.’
    • ‘Everything becomes poor, dry, forsaken and neglected, as if most of the buildings and all of the people inside them were orphans, foundlings with no way to prove their origins or fight for their rights and heritage.’
    • ‘For it goes without saying that ‘every child, even a foundling, is reputed to be the son of a father’.’
    • ‘The majority of Santiago's foundlings were also very young infants: from the period 1875 to 1915, 72 percent of children were less than a month old.’
    • ‘The nuns had a special social role in care for the sick and in rescuing foundlings.’
    • ‘The fate of the foundling still depends starkly on where it is born.’
    • ‘Thus an elaborate plan was hatched, making it appear that the baby, born in 1922, was a foundling.’
    • ‘And with foundlings there was always a question mark.’
    • ‘Drawing on historical research and contemporary interviews, Adie sheds light on how the fate of a foundling differs starkly depending where someone was born.’
    • ‘They concentrated on foundlings and orphans with nurseries to ensure a constant supply of children.’
    • ‘Lastly, the deserving poor, including foundlings, orphans, the neglected infants of working mothers, adolescent girls on the streets, the sick, and the aged had to be brought within the pale of religious life.’
    • ‘Perhaps you recall the scene in Three Men And A Baby where Tom Selleck, cradling their foundling in the crook of his arm, reads the child a story about a championship boxing match in that same tone of voice.’
    abandoned infant, waif, stray, orphan, outcast
    View synonyms


Middle English: from found (past participle) + -ling, perhaps on the pattern of Dutch vondeling.