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See also: Gaff



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  • IPA(key): /ɡæf/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -æf

Etymology 1Edit

Middle English, from Middle French gaffe, from Old Occitan gaf (hook), derivative of gafar (to seize), from Gothic 𐌲𐌰𐍆𐍆- (gaff-) derived from 𐌲𐌹𐌱𐌰𐌽 (giban, to give).

Alternative formsEdit

  • gaffe (minor error or faux pas)


gaff (plural gaffs)

  1. A tool consisting of a large metal hook with a handle or pole, especially the one used to pull large fish aboard a boat.
    • 1997, Mark Kurlansky, Cod: a Biography of the Fish That Changed the World:
      When Leonard finally hauls up a cod of seventy-five centimeters, probably seven years old, a typical catch ten years ago, they all joke, "Oh my God, get the gaff!"
  2. A minor error or faux pas, a gaffe.
    We politely ignored his gaff.
  3. A trick or con.
    The sideshow feat was just a gaff, but the audience was too proud to admit they'd been fooled.
  4. (nautical) The upper spar used to control a gaff-rigged sail.
  5. A garment worn to hide the genitals.
  6. Gaffer tape.
    She bought a roll of black gaff to tape down the loose cords.


gaff (third-person singular simple present gaffs, present participle gaffing, simple past and past participle gaffed)

  1. To use a gaff, especially to land a fish.
  2. To cheat or hoax.
  3. (slang) To gamble.

Derived termsEdit

Etymology 2Edit

Perhaps from Old English gafsprǣc (buffoonery, scurrility; blasphemous or ribald speech), from Old English gaf (base, vile, lewd) + Old English sprǣc (language, speech, talk)



  1. Rough or harsh treatment; criticism.
    • 1916, Edgar Rice Burrows, Beyond Thirty (aka The Lost Continent)[1], HTML edition, The Gutenberg Project, published 2008:
      "Numbers one, two, and five engines have broken down, sir," he called. "Shall we force the remaining three?" / "We can do nothing else," I bellowed into the transmitter. / "They won't stand the gaff, sir," he returned. / "Can you suggest a better plan?" I asked. / "No, sir," he replied. / "Then give them the gaff, lieutenant," I shouted back, and hung up the receiver.

Etymology 3Edit

Unknown. Possibly from Etymology 1, via a sense of "a place that will be robbed" in criminal argot; possibly from Etymology 2, via a sense of "cheap theatre"; possibly from Romani gāw (village) (cognate German Kaff (village)).


gaff (plural gaffs)

  1. (Britain, especially Mancunian and Cockney, Ireland, slang) A place of residence.
    We're going round to Mike's gaff later to watch the footie.
    • 2015 April 4, Judith Woods, “I knew it! Spring cleaning is bad for your family's health [print version: Vindicated at last! It's healthier to be a slatternly housewife, p. 28]”, in The Daily Telegraph[2], archived from the original on 9 April 2015:
      Am I alone in feeling smug (if slatternly) about the news that super-clean homes are a breeding ground for infection? Apparently, all that bleach is bad not just for germs but for children's immune systems, too, and paradoxically causes more disease than it prevents. Not round my gaff. Oh no. My standards of housekeeping are so abysmally low that my eldest daughter was three years old before she even developed a temperature.


  • Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia, gaff
  • New Oxford American Dictionary, gaff[2]
  • A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, gaff[10]