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[kaf, kahf] /kæf, kɑf/
noun, plural calves
[kavz, kahvz] /kævz, kɑvz/ (Show IPA)
the young of the domestic cow or other bovine animal.
the young of certain other mammals, as the elephant, seal, and whale.
calfskin leather.
Informal. an awkward, silly boy or man.
a mass of ice detached from a glacier, iceberg, or floe.
in calf, (of a cow or other animal having calves) pregnant.
kill the fatted calf, to prepare an elaborate feast in welcome or celebration.
Origin of calf1
before 900; Middle English; Old English cealf, calf; cognate with Old Saxon kalf, Old Norse kalfr, Old High German kalb
Related forms
calfless, adjective
calflike, adjective


[kaf, kahf] /kæf, kɑf/
noun, plural calves [kavz, kahvz] /kævz, kɑvz/ (Show IPA)
the fleshy part of the back of the human leg below the knee.
1275-1325; Middle English < Old Norse kalfi; akin to calf1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for calf
  • It continues below the knee where it branches off and carries blood to the muscles in the calf and foot.
  • Each leg was missing its fibula, the long, thin bone that anchors the calf muscle and forms the outside of the ankle.
  • The other will be farther down your leg, either in your calf or ankle.
  • They have begun to manage the entire production process, from seed and calf to packaged product, earning profits at every step.
  • The movement of the calf at this stage is a strong stimulus to the cow to get up and turn around and face the calf.
  • Such materials include connective tissue cells, called feeder layers, from mice and fetal calf serum.
  • Molly the calf seems to have escaped the slaughterhouse permanently.
  • As the calf gets larger, after all, it takes more feed to sustain it.
  • Females reproduce every two and a half to five years, and each calf starts living on its own when it's about three years old.
  • Those committed to their long term health who also tensed their calf muscles were more likely to drink more of the vinegar.
British Dictionary definitions for calf


noun (pl) calves
the young of cattle, esp domestic cattle related adjective vituline
the young of certain other mammals, such as the buffalo, elephant, giraffe, and whale
a large piece of floating ice detached from an iceberg, etc
kill the fatted calf, to celebrate lavishly, esp as a welcome
another name for calfskin
Word Origin
Old English cealf; related to Old Norse kālfr, Gothic kalbō, Old High German kalba


noun (pl) calves
the thick fleshy part of the back of the leg between the ankle and the knee related adjective sural
Word Origin
C14: from Old Norse kalfi
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for calf

"young cow," Old English cealf (Anglian cælf) "young cow," from West Germanic *kalbam (cf. Middle Dutch calf, Old Norse kalfr, German Kalb, Gothic kalbo), perhaps from PIE *gelb(h)-, from root *gel- "to swell," hence, "womb, fetus, young of an animal." Elliptical sense of "leather made from the skin of a calf" is from 1727. Used of icebergs that break off from glaciers from 1818.

fleshy part of the lower leg, early 14c., from Old Norse kalfi, source unknown; possibly from the same Germanic root as calf (n.1).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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calf in Medicine

calf (kāf)
n. pl. calves (kāvz)
The fleshy, muscular back part of the human leg between the knee and ankle, formed chiefly by the bellies of the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Slang definitions & phrases for calf


Related Terms

shake a wicked calf

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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calf in the Bible

Calves were commonly made use of in sacrifices, and are therefore frequently mentioned in Scripture. The "fatted calf" was regarded as the choicest of animal food; it was frequently also offered as a special sacrifice (1 Sam. 28:24; Amos 6:4; Luke 15:23). The words used in Jer. 34:18, 19, "cut the calf in twain," allude to the custom of dividing a sacrifice into two parts, between which the parties ratifying a covenant passed (Gen. 15:9, 10, 17, 18). The sacrifice of the lips, i.e., priase, is called "the calves of our lips" (Hos. 14:2, R.V., "as bullocks the offering of our lips." Comp. Heb. 13:15; Ps. 116:7; Jer. 33:11). The golden calf which Aaron made (Ex. 32:4) was probably a copy of the god Moloch rather than of the god Apis, the sacred ox or calf of Egypt. The Jews showed all through their history a tendency toward the Babylonian and Canaanitish idolatry rather than toward that of Egypt. Ages after this, Jeroboam, king of Israel, set up two idol calves, one at Dan, and the other at Bethel, that he might thus prevent the ten tribes from resorting to Jerusalem for worship (1 Kings 12:28). These calves continued to be a snare to the people till the time of their captivity. The calf at Dan was carried away in the reign of Pekah by Tiglath-pileser, and that at Bethel ten years later, in the reign of Hoshea, by Shalmaneser (2 Kings 15:29; 17:33). This sin of Jeroboam is almost always mentioned along with his name (2 Kings 15:28 etc.).

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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Idioms and Phrases with calf
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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