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From Middle English loof (weather gage, windward direction), probably from Middle Dutch (Compare Dutch loef (the weather side of a ship)), originally a nautical order to keep the ship's head to the wind, thus to stay clear of a lee-shore or some other quarter, hence the figurative sense of "at a distance, apart".[1]


  • IPA(key): /əˈluːf/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -uːf


aloof (comparative more aloof, superlative most aloof)

  1. At or from a distance, but within view, or at a small distance; apart; away.
    • 1697, John Dryden, “Part 13”, in Virgil's Aeneid, Harvard Classics edition, translation of original by Virgil, published 2004, page 113:
      The noise approaches, tho' our palace stood
      Aloof from streets, encompass'd with a wood
    • 1922, Ben Travers, chapter 2, in A Cuckoo in the Nest[1]:
      Mother [] considered that the exclusiveness of Peter's circle was due not to its distinction, but to the fact that it was an inner Babylon of prodigality and whoredom, from which every Kensingtonian held aloof, except on the conventional tip-and-run excursions in pursuit of shopping, tea and theatres.
  2. Without sympathy; unfavorably.
    • 1832, Isaac Taylor, Saturday evening, page 363:
      But to open the Bible in this spirit — to take the Book as from the hand of God, and then to look at it aloof, and with caution, as if throughout it were illusory and enigmatical, is the worst of all impieties.



aloof (comparative more aloof, superlative most aloof)

  1. Reserved and remote; either physically or emotionally distant; standoffish.

Derived terms[edit]




  1. (obsolete) Away from; clear of[2].

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2023), “aloof”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.
  2. ^ aloof”, in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, Springfield, Mass.: G. & C. Merriam, 1913, →OCLC.