From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:

Waif \Waif\, n. [OF. waif, gaif, as adj., lost, unclaimed, chose
   gaive a waif, LL. wayfium, res vaivae; of Scand. origin. See
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   1. (Eng. Law.) Goods found of which the owner is not known;
      originally, such goods as a pursued thief threw away to
      prevent being apprehended, which belonged to the king
      unless the owner made pursuit of the felon, took him, and
      brought him to justice. --Blackstone.
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   2. Hence, anything found, or without an owner; that which
      comes along, as it were, by chance. "Rolling in his mind
      old waifs of rhyme." --Tennyson.
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   3. A wanderer; a castaway; a stray; a homeless child.
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            A waif
            Desirous to return, and not received. --Cowper.
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