Waif and stray

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Waif and stray was a legal privilege commonly granted by the Crown to landowners under Anglo-Norman law. It usually appeared as part of a standard formula in charters granting privileges to estate-holders, along the lines of "with sac and soc, toll and team, infangthief and outfangthief" and so on.[1]

A waif was an item of ownerless and unclaimed property found on a landowner's territory, while a stray referred to a domestic animal that had wandered onto the same land. Both terms originated from Anglo-Norman French. A grant of waif and stray permitted the landowner to take ownership of such goods or animals if they remained unclaimed after a set period of time.

In later centuries, the expression "waifs and strays" came to be used as metaphors for – and ultimately became synonymous with – abandoned or neglected children.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Arnold-Baker, Charles (2001). The Companion to British History. Routledge. p. 1222. ISBN 9780415185837. 
  2. ^ Plotz, Judith Ann (2001). Romanticism and the Vocation of Childhood. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 37. ISBN 9780312227357.