Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to: navigation, search



From Middle English caitif, from Anglo-Norman caitif (captive), akin to Old French chaitif (French chétif) and Middle Dutch keytyf, from a Vulgar Latin alteration of Latin captīvus (captive); compare Italian cattivo (bad, wicked). Doublet of captive.



caitiff (plural caitiffs)

  1. A base or despicable person; a wretch
  2. (obsolete) A captive or prisoner, particularly a galley slave
  3. (archaic) A villain, a coward or wretch
    • Late 14th century, Geoffrey Chaucer, "The Knight's Tale", The Canterbury Tales
      For, certes, lord, þer is noon of us alle / Þat she ne haþ been a duchesse or a queene. / Now be we caytyves, as it is wel seene, / Þanked be Fortune and hire false wheel
    • 1989, Anthony Burgess, The Devil's Mode
      ‘There are plenty of Huns who have defected to the Romans, seeking gold and a quiet life. One of my first tasks as paramount chief is to bring those caitiffs back and crucify them.’


caitiff (comparative more caitiff, superlative most caitiff)

  1. Especially despicable; cowardly