Definition of orphan in US English:



  • 1A child whose parents are dead.

    • ‘They chose to adopt an orphan - a baby girl from Russia named Brandy - and their visits to Russian orphanages moved them to explore what they could to help other abandoned children.’
    • ‘The Earl had suggested that David pretend to be an orphan whose parents had been American gentility.’
    • ‘She grew up an orphan, her parents having been killed in a battle which overtook their hometown.’
    • ‘Treating patients extends their longevity, improves the quality of their lives, and reduces the number of orphans since parents remain alive.’
    • ‘In a magic mirror which reflects one's innermost desires, the young orphan glimpses his dead parents - and his loneliness and longing is palpable.’
    • ‘Susanne and her sisters are AIDS orphans; their parents both died two years ago.’
    • ‘Harpt has now set up a school for orphans and destitute children.’
    • ‘Eight years later he returned to France an orphan, his parents having been deported to Auschwitz by the Vichy authorities.’
    • ‘Among the special schools were those providing secondary education for orphans and girls, which were supervised by the Tsar's mother.’
    • ‘The little girl is an orphan who lost her parents to AIDS.’
    • ‘The boy who is an orphan was orphaned when his parents died in short succession in 1992.’
    • ‘Actually, education opportunity was given to all Tibetan refugee children, but TCV accepted only orphans and my parents were reluctant to send me to a far away place.’
    • ‘He introduced her to Jamil Chowdhury, a Bangladeshi businessman working on behalf of orphans and destitute young girls in the country's interior villages.’
    • ‘An adoption official has spoken about the moment when Angelina Jolie adopted an Ethiopian girl made an orphan by AIDS.’
    • ‘Strengthening this regime is essential to the well-being of orphans and to the parents who would receive them.’
    • ‘The orphanage provides a loving, caring home to 180 orphans and children not wanted by their parents.’
    • ‘In recent years, it has seen an influx of war-displaced Cambodians, including maimed land-mine victims and orphans whose parents died in the civil war.’
    • ‘Consider the plight of the millions of orphans left behind when AIDS strikes down their parents and other relatives.’
    • ‘Proper grounds for putting children into care are such things as cruelty, neglect or incapacity on the part of the parents, or because the children are orphans.’
    • ‘This three-month old baby escaped with a fractured wrist, but is now an orphan as both parents were killed.’
  • 2Printing
    The first line of a paragraph set as the last line of a page or column, considered undesirable.


[with object]
  • Make (a person or animal) an orphan.

    ‘John was orphaned at 12’
    • ‘Another male swan had its left foot hacked off, and last weekend, two cygnets were found orphaned near Furze Hill.’
    • ‘‘We want to go home; please help us so that we are not cut up into pieces because then you would bear the guilt of orphaning our children,’ said one of the hostages, speaking in an Egyptian accent.’
    • ‘Poor, then exploited in their poverty, these women when captured and convicted have been subjected to severe sentences perpetuating their position of disadvantage while effectively orphaning their young children for a period of time.’
    • ‘A teenage boy was orphaned when his parents and nine-year-old brother were killed, it emerged today.’
    • ‘They paid their poignant tributes as two teenage brothers were comforting each other after being orphaned in the tragedy.’
    • ‘By the time he was a young teenager, he and his brother were orphaned, alone and destitute.’
    • ‘He was born in York, the son of an engineer, only to leave for Australia aged 16, three years after he was orphaned.’
    • ‘Khushi is the daughter of a family friend, who becomes part of this household after being orphaned.’
    • ‘He said the impact of the virus would peak in about 20 years when more children were orphaned by the virus.’
    • ‘A SEVEN-year-old Yorkshire child left orphaned by a car crash on the Greek island of Corfu has woken from a coma.’
    • ‘Many of these children are orphaned, having lost their parents to the AIDs virus.’
    • ‘They've all been abandoned by their mothers because of the drought, or have been left orphaned.’
    • ‘The boy who is an orphan was orphaned when his parents died in short succession in 1992.’
    • ‘But if it appears healthy, the general advice is to observe from afar to see if the animal is truly orphaned or in any danger.’
    • ‘His father finally succumbed to alcoholism, orphaning the son with whom he had travelled the world.’
    • ‘The puppies were born in the Waikato in a litter of six and were orphaned at three weeks old when their mother was sold.’
    • ‘When the huge waves struck, children were orphaned, homes were destroyed, businesses lost.’
    • ‘He was orphaned at the age of nine, and got a job as a cabin boy, and through sheer hard graft, worked his way up the ranks.’
    • ‘Children are orphaned because of the AIDS pandemic or because they are just abandoned.’
    • ‘There are no reliable figures yet but the quake has probably orphaned thousands of girls who are vulnerable to exploitation.’
    orphaned, widowed
    View synonyms


Late Middle English: via late Latin from Greek orphanos ‘bereaved’.