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From Middle English mastif, mastyf, an aberrant derivation (with influence from Old French mestif) from Old French mastin (modern French mâtin), from Vulgar Latin *mansuetinus (tamed (animal)), from Latin mansuetus (tamed).



mastiff (plural mastiffs)

  1. One of an old breed of powerful, deep-chested, and smooth-coated dogs, used chiefly as watchdogs and guard dogs.
    • 1605, William Shakespeare, King Lear, Act III, Scene VI
      Avaunt, you curs! Be thy mouth or black or white, Tooth that poisons if it bite; Mastiff, greyhound, mongrel grim, Hound or spaniel, brach or him.
    • 1896, Theodore Roosevelt, Ranch Life and the Hunting-Trail, The Century Co., chapter 11
      The Mastiff is a good fighter, and can kill a wildcat, taking the necessary punishment well, as we found out when we once trapped one of these small lynxes.