The first lawyer, you know, was a waif that was adopted by a tortoise and a fox.
Edwin said she should be called waif, and waif she was ever after called in that house.
I am a stranger, a waif, a man with neither name nor fortune!
My waif was curled up in my kimono, feeding my fan-tailed goldfish.
I am cast on the globe like a waif, like a grain of dust tossed by the winds, and nobody knows where I came from.
My husband told me all about your help and your kindness to our waif.
I am such a waif and stray everywhere, that I am liable to be drifted where any current may set.'
One employed on the sea-coast to look to the rights of salvage, wreck, or waif.
Fusie, the little, harum-scarum French waif was ready for anything in the way of adventure.
“On board the ship,” replied the waif, in tones not at all sepulchral.
late 14c., "unclaimed property, flotsam, stray animal," from Anglo-Norm. waif, gwaif (early 13c.) "ownerless property," probably from a Scandinavian source akin to Old Norse veif "waving thing, flag," from Proto-Germanic *waif-, from PIE *weip- "to turn, vacillate, tremble ecstatically" (see vibrate). Cf. Medieval Latin waivium "thing thrown away by a thief in flight." A Scottish/northern English parallel form was wavenger (late 15c.).
Meaning "person (especially a child) without home or friends" first attested 1784, from legal phrase waif and stray (1620s). Neglected children being uncommonly thin, the word tended toward this sense. Connotations of "fashionable, small, slender woman" began 1991 with application to childishly slim supermodels, e.g. Kate Moss.