AskDefine | Define elfish

Dictionary Definition

elfish adj : usually good-naturedly mischievous; "perpetrated a practical joke with elfin delight"; "elvish tricks" [syn: elfin, elvish]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Characteristic of an elf
  2. mischievous

Extensive Definition

An elf is a creature of Germanic mythology. The elves were originally imagined as a race of minor nature and fertility gods, who are often pictured as youthful-seeming men and women of great beauty living in forests and underground places and caves, or in wells and springs. They have been portrayed to be long-lived or immortal and as beings of magical powers. Following J. R. R. Tolkien's influential The Lord of the Rings, wherein a wise, immortal people named Elves have a significant role, elves became staple characters of modern fantasy (see Elves in fantasy fiction and games).


The English word elf is from Old English ælf (also ylf), from a Proto-Germanic *albo-z, *albi-z, whence also Old Norse álfr, Middle High German elbe. In Middle English, until the 14th century, elf was the masculine, while the corresponding feminine was elven (Old English ælfen, from *albinnja).
The word's ultimate etymology may be the Proto-Indo-European root *albh- meaning "white", from which also stems the Latin albus "white". Alternatively, a connection to the Rbhus, semi-divine craftsmen in Indian mythology, has also been suggested (OED). In this case, a Latin etymological root cognate would be labor.
Elf can only be pluralised as elves, elfs and elf's are not valid plurals although often found written as such. Something associated with elves or the qualities of elves is described by the adjectives elven, elvish, elfin or elfish. According to a convention of modern fantasy, the 'v' in elven or elvish refers to human-sized elves (who correspond more closely to those of the old Germanic paganism), whereas the f in elfin or elfish refers to tiny-sized elfs (who correspond more closely to the folklore of the Renaissance and Romantic Eras).
The corresponding terms in Germanic languages other than English are:
  • North Germanic
    • Old Norse: álfr, plural álfar.
    • Icelandic: álfar, álfafólk and huldufólk (hidden people).
    • Danish: Elver, elverfolk or alfer (note alfer today translates to fairies). .
    • Norwegian: alv, alven, alver, alvene / alvefolket (note alvefolket today translates to elfpeople)
    • Swedish: alfer, alver or älvor (feminine form - today translated to fairies).
  • Continental West Germanic
  • Gothic *albs, plural *albeis (Procopius has the personal name Albila)

Elves in Norse mythology

The first appearance of modern fantasy elves occurred in The King of Elfland's Daughter a 1924 novel by Lord Dunsany. The next modern work featuring elves was The Hobbit, a 1937 children's book by J. R. R. Tolkien. Elves played a major role in many of Tolkien's later works, notably The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien's writing has such popularity that in the 1960s and afterwards, elves similar to those in Tolkien's novels became staple non-human characters in high fantasy works and in fantasy role-playing games. Post-Tolkien fantasy elves (popularized by the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game) tend to be more beautiful and more wise than humans, with sharper senses and perceptions. They are also said to be much more gifted in magic and stronger physically and mentally (although this can be disputed by comparing human advances in technology to the somewhat rustic elven technology). Often elves do not possess facial or body hair, and are consequently perceived to be androgynous. A hallmark of fantasy elves is also their long and pointed ears (a convention begun with a note of Tolkien's that the ears of elves were "leaf-shaped"). Elves of the Tolkien mold have become standardized staple characters of modern fantasy. It is worth noting that those things described as being of or related to these fair elves are referred to as "elven", as opposed to "elfish" (a term more closely associated with the sprite-like elves of medieval conception).




Other beliefs Some believe that elves are actually humans just genetically mutated. The are smarter in some ways, stronger, faster, and are basically just super human. Most of these elves are pagans.

See also

Concerning traditional elves:
Related folklore creatures: Miscellaneous:
elfish in Bulgarian: Елфи
elfish in Catalan: Elf
elfish in Czech: Elf
elfish in Danish: Elverfolk
elfish in German: Elfen
elfish in Modern Greek (1453-): Ξωτικά
elfish in Spanish: Elfo
elfish in Esperanto: Elfo
elfish in French: Elfe
elfish in Galician: Elfo
elfish in Korean: 엘프
elfish in Croatian: Vilenjak
elfish in Indonesian: Peri
elfish in Icelandic: Álfur
elfish in Italian: Elfo
elfish in Hebrew: אלף (פנטזיה)
elfish in Latin: Alfus
elfish in Lithuanian: Elfai
elfish in Malay (macrolanguage): Orang halus
elfish in Dutch: Elf (mythologie)
elfish in Japanese: エルフ
elfish in Norwegian: Alv
elfish in Norwegian Nynorsk: Alv
elfish in Polish: Elf (fantastyka)
elfish in Portuguese: Elfo
elfish in Romanian: Elf
elfish in Russian: Эльф
elfish in Swedish: Quendi
elfish in Thai: พราย
elfish in Turkish: Elf
elfish in Ukrainian: Альви
elfish in Chinese: 精靈
elfish in Slovak: Elf

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1