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From Middle English chaf, from Old English ċeaf, from Proto-West Germanic *kaf, from Proto-Germanic *kafą. Cognate with Scots caff, Saterland Frisian Sääf, West Frisian tsjêf, Dutch kaf, German Low German Kaff, regional German Kaff.
- (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /t͡ʃæf/, /t͡ʃɑːf/
Audio (Southern England) (file)
- (US) IPA(key): /t͡ʃæf/
- Rhymes: -æf
- The inedible parts of a grain-producing plant.
- Coordinate term: bran
- To separate out the chaff, early cultures tossed baskets of grain into the air and let the wind blow away the lighter chaff.
- 1886, Peter Christen Asbjørnsen, translated by H.L. Brækstad, Folk and Fairy Tales, page 251:
- In the passage outside the door, the threshers, who had done their day's work, were stamping the snow off their feet before they came in, - their hair full of chaff.
- Straw or hay cut up fine for the food of cattle.
- (figurative) Any excess or unwanted material, resource, or person; anything worthless.
- 1927-1929, Mahatma Gandhi, chapter XXI, in Mahadev Desai, transl., The Story of My Experiments with Truth, published 1940:
- Who that has prided himself on his spiritual strength has not seen it humbled to the dust? A knowledge of religion, as distinguished from experience, seems but chaff in such moments of trial.
- Light jesting talk; banter; raillery.
- 1848 November – 1850 December, William Makepeace Thackeray, chapter 51, in The History of Pendennis. […], volumes (please specify |volume=I or II), London: Bradbury and Evans, […], published 1849–1850, →OCLC:
- As for Huxter, perfectly at good-humour with himself, and the world, it never entered his mind that he could be disagreeable to anybody; and the little dispute, or “chaff,” as he styled it, of Vauxhall, was a trifle which he did not in the least regard.
- (military) Loose material, e.g. small strips of aluminum foil dropped from aircraft, intended to interfere with radar detection.
inedible parts of grain plant
excess or unwanted material
loose material dropped from aircraft to interfere with radar
straw or hay cut up for cattle food
light jesting talk
- (intransitive) To use light, idle language by way of fun or ridicule; to banter.
- (transitive) To make fun of; to turn into ridicule by addressing in ironical or bantering language; to quiz.
- 1848 November – 1850 December, William Makepeace Thackeray, chapter 10, in The History of Pendennis. […], volumes (please specify |volume=I or II), London: Bradbury and Evans, […], published 1849–1850, →OCLC:
- We were talking about it at mess, yesterday, and chaffing Derby Oaks—until he was as mad as a hatter.
- (transitive) To cut up (straw or hay) for use as cattle feed.
to use idle language to ridicule
to make fun of
- “chaff”, in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, Springfield, Mass.: G. & C. Merriam, 1913, →OCLC.
- Chaff in the Encyclopædia Britannica (11th edition, 1911)
- Alternative form of