elf. Forms: ælf, ylf, alve, alfe, elfe, -elf. OE: ælf; OHG: alp (MHG & mod. G.:alp - nightmare); ON: álfr; Da. alf; Otaut. *albo-z, *albi-z. …..(The mod.G. elf is believed to be adopted from English; MHG has elbe a female elf).
1. mythology. a. The name of a class of supernatural beings, in early Teutonic belief supposed to possess formidable magical powers, exercised variously for the benefit or the injury of mankind. They were believed to be of dwarfish form, to produce diseases of various kinds, to act as incubi and succubi, to cause nightmares, and to steal children, substituting changelings in their place. The Teutonic belief in elves is prbably the main source of the medieval superstition respecting fairies, which, however includes elements not of Teutonic origin; in general the Romanic word denotes a being of less terrible and more playful character than the 'elf' as originally concieved. In moderm literature elf is a mere synonym of FAIRY, which has to a great extant superseded it even in dialects. Originaly elfwas masculine, ELVEN feminine; but in 13th and 14th centuries the two seem to have been used indifferently of both sexes. In modern use elf chiefly, though not always, denotes a male fairy. 2. from A Dictionary of Fairies, Goblins, Brownies, Bogies etc / K. M. Briggs (1976), p. 122.
Elves. Already in Scandinavian mythology the fairy people were elves and were divided into two classes, the light elves and the dark elves, like the Scottish SEELIECOURTand UNSEELIE COURT. The name came over into Britain, and in the Anglo‑Saxon Leechdoms we find remedies against ELF-SHOT and other sinister elvish activities. The mythological light elves were not unlike the small TROOPING FAIRIES of England as we find them in Shakespeare's MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM and many common traditions. In Christian times the Scandinavians continued to believe in the elves, or huldre folk, who showed many of the same characteristics as the Scottish FAIRIES, both Highland and Lowland. They stole humans away, destroyed their cattle and avenged any injuries done to them. The huldre girls were beautiful and alluring, wearing grey dresses and white veils, but the DEFECT OF THE FAIRIES by which they could be recognized was their long cows' tails. A man who was dancing with a huldre girl saw her tail and realized what she was. He did not betray her, but only said, `Pretty maid, you are losing your garter.' His tact was rewarded by perpetual prosperity. The defect of the Danish elves or ellewomen is that though they appeared beautiful and engaging from the front, they were hollow behind. The Danish elves were great thieves of dough and other human foods. In Lowland Scotland and in England the usage differed. In Scotland the fairy people of human size were often called elves and Fairyland was EIfame; in England it was the smaller trooping fairies who were called elves, and the name was particularly applied to small fairy boys. TITANIA's `To make my small elves coats' is a typical example of the later use. `Elf', however, was as unpopular with the fairies themselves as the tactless name of `fairy', Ifwe may judge from the rhyme given by Chambers in his Popular Rhymes of Scotland (p. 324): Gin ye ca' me imp or elf,