An elf is a mythical creature/creature of Germanic mythology/paganism which still survives in northern European folklore. In Norse mythology they were originally a race of minor gods of nature and fertility. Elves are often pictured as youthful-seeming men and women of great beauty living in forests and other natural places, underground, or in wells and springs. They have been portrayed to be long-lived or immortal and they have magical powers attributed to them.
Following the success of J.R.R. Tolkien‘s epic work based on ancient English culture The Lord of the Rings—wherein a wise, angelic people named elves play a significant role—they have become staple characters of modern fantasy.
Elf can be pluralized both as elves and elfs. Something associated with elves or the qualities of elves is described by the adjectives elven, elvish, elfin or elfish. A convention of modern fantasy usage is: the v in elven or elvish refers to human-sized elves (who correspond more closely to the mythology of the Viking Era), whereas the f in elfin or elfish refers to tiny-sized elfs (who correspond more closely to the folklore of the Renaissance and Romantic Eras). They are also called:
Germany: Elfen, Elben and Alben
Great Britain: addler (obsolete)
Netherlands: Elfen, Alfen, Elven
Denmark: alfer, elvere, elverfolk, ellefolk or huldrer.
Iceland: álfar, álfafólk and huldufólk (hidden people)
Norway: alver, alfer or elvefolk
Sweden: alfer, alver or älvor
France: Elfe, Elfes
Brazil: Elfo, Elfos
Spain: Duende, Duendes; Elfo, Elfos
After much debate, the consensus is elf, álf and related words derive from the Proto-Indo-European root *albh meaning «white», whence also the Latin albus «white», whence Portuguese and English albino.
Likely, the ancient name refers to the «ghostly white apparations» of the elf-spirits: perhaps transparent.