Definition of elfin in US English:



  • 1(with reference to a person) small and delicate, typically with an attractively mischievous or strange charm.

    ‘she looked up at him with an elfin grin’
    • ‘In the end, the tale of an elfin waitress who spreads happiness among her unwitting friends and neighbours grossed £90m.’
    • ‘Behind me, the door had burst open, and another tall and handsome elfin boy, of about the same age was standing in the doorway, gaping at me.’
    • ‘‘It has a nice vibe’ I say to her as we walk to the house, her smile broadening, her long brown hair framing her pale, elfin face.’
    • ‘It was a sharp contrast between the two champions: the tall, handsome, adult human male and the much shorter, cute, little elfin girl.’
    • ‘If only she had more to do than play the pixie: we get awfully familiar with the tilted-down, shot-from-above disposition of her elfin face because not much else goes on with her.’
    • ‘The tiny, elfin figure that is Canada's most lauded novelist is sipping cappuccino from a china cup in an opulent hotel lounge.’
    • ‘She had a tiny elfin face, and huge green eyes with flecks of brown.’
    • ‘The introduction - oddly named as it contains many major spoilers - is a welcome chance to hear the effervescent, elfin man discuss his themes and modifications to Gorky's work.’
    • ‘Saddle Creek's that Omaha-centric label run by that elfin fellow with the bright eyes.’
    • ‘After the signing, at the pub next door, I sat next to a dark, vaguely elfin gentleman named Colin Greenland who seemed to know a lot about the field and who, when I mentioned that I had written a handful of stories, asked to see them.’
    • ‘Mostly they're cartoons of fairies that share Bobbie's slim elfin face, cupid's bow lips and wide-set, almond-shaped eyes.’
    • ‘The dress wasn't low cut, but in truth she didn't have a lot of cleavage to reveal, her figure being quite elfin.’
    • ‘Vanessa sits cross-legged on her bed in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, a tiny, elfin figure with a striking, delicate face that looks as if it has been gently chiselled from creamy alabaster.’
    • ‘One of them was tall, with a dark power surrounding him like an aura with long, raven hair pulled back from an angelic, elfin face.’
    • ‘Her curling red hair stilled itself around her shoulders, framing her pale, elfin face.’
    • ‘‘I was beautiful before,’ she says, touching a pretty, elfin face miraculously unscathed by the blaze that engulfed her body last summer.’
    • ‘Dark shading created sharp cheekbones of elfin faces, softer blending produced squashier, round ones.’
    • ‘She was beautiful in an unconventional way, triangular elfin face with big, expressive eyes and a lithe body.’
    • ‘In another one of Random Acts's monologues, a petite, elfin woman in a peach sweater squares herself off at the confessor's table, and begins to talk with a slight southern lilt.’
    • ‘She is lovely, jet black long hair, elfin face, pale white skin and a great figure.’
    elflike, elfish, elvish, pixie-like
    View synonyms
  • 2Relating to elves.

    ‘an enchanted world of fairies in elfin glades’
    • ‘It rises like a green baroque elfin city.’
    • ‘Our readers may also recall that he has never been one to work a lot of elfin magic with the art of the Direct Statement in the first place.’
    • ‘I can understand the language since birth, and I know the elfin ways.’
    • ‘It was no longer there but it was replaced with a sun of elfin crafting.’
    • ‘The other was not of the same delicate blood as the elfin horses.’
    • ‘While they employ neither the soaring grandeur of Sigur Rós nor the elfin idiosyncrasy of Björk, the music of the Múm quartet is unequivocally Icelandic.’
    • ‘Apparently, regular Puffs doesn't come with special elfin magic like the other two do.’
    • ‘A Midsummer Night's Dream will transport you to an enchanted world of fairies in elfin glades, love and romance in rural Tuscany.’
    • ‘She has the elfin air of a creature from the romances of chivalry.’
    • ‘Still, she is relaxed, her elfin features creased in a permanent smile.’
    • ‘At the end these figures are succeeded by silence, at the beginning they're interrupted by elfin voices.’
    • ‘The card itself was beautiful and came with an elfin poem inside, the painting of Galadriel is by Josephine Wall.’
    • ‘The elfin courses went to great lengths to outdo their competitors.’
    • ‘Well, I bring you a cautionary tale from the elfin handbook.’
    • ‘If any thing indicated the passing of time it was the rhythm of elfin horns blowing upon the heights.’
    • ‘It only lies in the heart of elfin land!’
    • ‘Albion sometimes cursed the elfin blood that made him permanently obediant to the evil Obsidian.’
    • ‘All those years spent partying too long and too hard have not taken their toll on her elfin beauty.’
    • ‘He pointed to an elfin house, a purple shell that looked like a vertical sand dollar.’
    • ‘Makino's singing highlight may appear on "Magic Mountain," where her sweet, elfin melodies tell a tale of time on a mountain, stricken with loneliness.’


  • 1archaic An elf.

    • ‘And Yarthe was empty, but for the elfin, and the elfin quite naturally took it for theirs.’
    • ‘A combative elfin gets a mission to snaffle a magic book in the country of Moria.’
    • ‘His clan was that of no other, contrary to the beliefs of all other races, Masheleec Urik conceived that the Duroug elfins were a striking image of some god, whose obligation it was to drive all other races to the brink of utter destruction.’
    • ‘A small shudder ran through the elfin's body, and she turned her face away from him.’
  • 2A small North American butterfly that is typically brownish with markings on the wing margins that give the impression of scalloped edges.

    Genus Incisalia, family Lycaenidae


Late 16th century: from elf, probably suggested by Middle English elvene ‘of elves’, and by Elphin, the name of a character in Arthurian romance.