From Middle English chaf, from Old English ċeaf, from Proto-West Germanic *kaf, from Proto-Germanic *kafą. Cognate with Scots caff, Saterland Frisian Sääf, West Frisian tsjêf, Dutch kaf, German Low German Kaff, regional German Kaff.



chaff (usually uncountable, plural chaffs)

  1. The inedible parts of a grain-producing plant.
    Coordinate term: bran
    To separate out the chaff, early cultures tossed baskets of grain into the air and let the wind blow away the lighter chaff.
  2. Straw or hay cut up fine for the food of cattle.
    • 1831, William Youatt, The Horse, page 130:
      By adding chaff to his corn, the horse must take more time to eat it, and time is given for the commencement of digestion, before fermentation can occur. In this way chaff is very useful, especially after long fasts.
  3. (figuratively) Any excess or unwanted material, resource, or person; anything worthless.
  4. Light jesting talk; banter; raillery.
    • 1887, H. Rider Haggard, She: A History of Adventure[1]:
      It was the chaff of the College at the time, but I could not help it.
  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