AskDefine | Define orphaned

Dictionary Definition

orphaned adj : deprived of parents by death or desertion [syn: orphan]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. past of orphan

Extensive Definition

An orphan (from the Greek ορφανός) is a person (typically a child), who has lost both parents, often through death. One legal definition used in the USA is someone bereft through "death or disappearance of, abandonment or desertion by, or separation or loss from, both parents". Common usage limits the term to children, (or the young of animals) who have lost both parents. On this basis half-orphans are those with one surviving parent.
In certain animal species where the father typically abandons the mother and child at or prior to birth, the child will be called an orphan when the mother dies regardless of the condition of the father.


Orphans are commonly found in big cities because it is easier for the parents to dump them off there. It is also easier for an orphan to live in a city for its abundance of shelter and food.
  • 2001 figures from 2002 UNICEF/UNAIDS report

Significant charities that help orphans

Prior to the establishment of state care for orphans in First World countries, many private charities existed to take care of destitute orphans.
  • SOS Children's Villages is the world's largest non-governmental, non-denominational child welfare organization. Its mission is to provide stable homes and loving families for orphaned and abandoned children around the world.

Orphans in literature

Orphaned characters are extremely common as literary protagonists, especially in children's and fantasy literature. The lack of parents leaves the characters to pursue more interesting and adventurous lives, by freeing them from familial obligations and controls, and depriving them of more prosaic lives. It creates characters that are self-contained and introspective and who strive for affection. Orphans can metaphorically search for self-understanding through attempting to know their roots. Parents can also be allies and sources of aid for children, and removing the parents makes the character's difficulties more severe. Parents, furthermore, can be irrelevant to the theme a writer is trying to develop, and orphaning the character frees the writer from the necessity to depict such an irrelevant relationship; if one parent-child relationship is important, removing the other parent prevents complicating the necessary relationship. All these characteristics make orphans attractive characters for authors.
Orphans are common in fairy tales, such as some variants of Cinderella.
A number of well known authors have written books featuring orphans including Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Roald Dahl and J.K. Rowling as well as some less well known authors of famous orphans like Little Orphan Annie and the Baudelaire siblings of the Series of Unfortunate Events. One recurring storyline has been the relationship that the orphan can have with an adult from outside his or her immediate family. Some of the most emotive works have been those featuring the relationship between a man and a boy, particularly boys that are coming of age.

Orphans in the Bible

Many books of the Bible contain idea, that helping and defending orphans is very important and God-pleasing matter. Several citations:
  • "Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan." (Old Testament, Exodus 22:22)
  • "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (New Testament, James 1:27)
  • "Leave your orphans; I will protect their lives. Your widows too can trust in me." (Old Testament, Jeremiah 49:11)


orphaned in Arabic: يتيم
orphaned in German: Waise
orphaned in Esperanto: Orfo (familio)
orphaned in French: Orphelin
orphaned in Indonesian: Yatim Piatu
orphaned in Italian: Orfano
orphaned in Hebrew: יתמות
orphaned in Lithuanian: Našlaitis
orphaned in Dutch: Wees (kind)
orphaned in Japanese: 孤児
orphaned in Polish: Sieroctwo
orphaned in Portuguese: Órfão
orphaned in Russian: Сирота
orphaned in Simple English: Orphan
orphaned in Finnish: Orpo
orphaned in Ukrainian: Сирота
orphaned in Yiddish: יתום
orphaned in Chinese: 孤兒
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