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 and humanoid 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.