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Origin unknown; a number of possible etymologies have been suggested,[1] but no conclusive evidence yet exists.[2]



boffin (plural boffins)

  1. (Australia, Britain, informal) An engineer or scientist, especially one engaged in technological or military research. [from 1930–1940s]
    Synonym: backroom boy
    • [1942 February 3, Henry T[homas] Tizard, “Parliamentary and Scientific Committee. Luncheon.”, in Journal of the Institute of Petroleum[1], volume 28, number 219, London: The Institute of Petroleum, OCLC 457014166, archived from the original on 30 September 2018, page 58:
      In fact, a fighting friend of mine said that he could hardly walk in any direction in this war without tumbling over a scientist who had got in the way. In the Royal Air Force, where the concentration of scientists is perhaps greatest, they have a pet name for them. They call them “Boffins.” Why, I do not know. I said to a young friend of mine in the Air Force, “Why do you call scientists ‘Boffins’?” He said, “I don’t know. What else would you call them?”]
  2. (Australia, Britain, informal, by extension) A person with specialized knowledge or skills, especially one who is socially awkward; (in a weaker sense) an intellectual; a smart person.
    Synonyms: brain, brainiac, egghead


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  1. ^ See, for example, William Safire (7 April 1985), “On language: Say ‘uncle’ – and make my day”, in The New York Times, archived from the original on 28 November 2017.
  2. ^ boffin, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972; “boffin” (US) / “boffin” (UK) in Oxford Dictionaries, Oxford University Press.

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