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From Middle English chaf, from Old English ċeaf, from Proto-Germanic *kafą.



chaff (usually uncountable, plural chaffs)

  1. The inedible parts of a grain-producing plant.
    To separate out the chaff, early cultures tossed baskets of grain into the air and let the wind blow away the lighter chaff.
    • Dryden
      So take the corn and leave the chaff behind.
  2. Straw or hay cut up fine for the food of cattle.
    • Wyatt
      By adding chaff to his corn, the horse must take more time to eat it. In this way chaff is very useful.
  3. (by extension) Any excess or unwanted material, resource, or person; anything worthless.
    There are plenty of good books on the subject, but take care to separate the wheat from the chaff.
    • Shakespeare
      the chaff and ruin of the times
  4. Light jesting talk; banter; raillery.
  5. (military) Loose material, e.g. small strips of aluminum foil dropped from aircraft, intended to interfere with radar detection.
    Synonym: window

Derived termsEdit


See alsoEdit


chaff (third-person singular simple present chaffs, present participle chaffing, simple past and past participle chaffed)

  1. (intransitive) To use light, idle language by way of fun or ridicule; to banter.
  2. (transitive) To make fun of; to turn into ridicule by addressing in ironical or bantering language; to quiz.



Middle EnglishEdit



  1. Alternative form of chaf