Definition of orc in US English:



  • (in fantasy literature and games) a member of an imaginary race of humanlike creatures, characterized as ugly, warlike, and malevolent.

    • ‘All night they watch the armies of men and orcs dig trenches and build campsites outside the reach of their arrows.’
    • ‘Eomer tells him that they have already found the large band of orcs and killed them, losing many men of their own.’
    • ‘They hate orcs especially and are the reason that Rohan defeats the orcs at Helm's Deep.’
    • ‘The passes there have become impassable because of the weather and the orcs that are everywhere.’
    • ‘As they continue on the road, the sky is filled with carrion birds and wolves feed on the bodies of unburied orcs.’
    • ‘He realizes that the orcs were commanded to retrieve the hobbits and return them unharmed.’
    • ‘In the morning, they run into a band of elves who were at the ambush of the orcs.’
    • ‘For it was true, the orcs had lost many more of their army than the elves, humans, and dwarves did.’
    • ‘Legolas explains that the ax kills only orcs and Treebeard is content with this.’
    • ‘One orc says that something hurt the creature and is still lurking in the tunnels.’
    • ‘There is a debate between the orc parties, and two orcs from the Mordor party are killed in the dispute.’
    • ‘Even when they are captured by a band of orcs, they do not lose their spirit.’
    • ‘He makes timid steps back towards the tower and sees two orcs shot by their companions in the courtyard.’
    • ‘He explains to the hobbits that he is not really on a side but is definitely against anything having to do with orcs.’
    • ‘Boromir dies trying to stop a band of orcs from kidnapping Merry and Pippin.’
    • ‘It's one thing to cast orcs or some other imaginary monsters as being evil.’
    • ‘They encounter some small groups of orcs away from the great army and they slay them quickly.’
    • ‘Now, not to put the foul creatures down too much, orcs are not the brightest things that you could find.’
    • ‘He landed in water and floundered there until the blue creature shoved the other orc off the ship.’
    • ‘Soon they hear orcs marching in great haste with their captains whipping them from behind.’


Late 16th century (denoting an ogre): perhaps from Latin orcus ‘hell’ or Italian orco ‘demon, monster’, influenced by obsolete orc ‘ferocious sea creature’ and by Old English orcneas ‘monsters’. The current sense is due to the use of the word in Tolkien's fantasy adventures.