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Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.
(See the entry for chaff in
Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.)

From Middle English chaf, from Old English ċeaf, probably from a Proto-Germanic *kaf- (to gnaw, chew), from Proto-Indo-European *gep(h)- (jaw mouth). Akin to West Frisian tsjêf, Dutch kaf, German Kaff.



chaff (usually uncountable, plural chaffs)

  1. The inedible parts of a grain-producing plant.
    To separate out the chaff, early cultures tossed baskets of grain into the air and let the wind blow away the lighter chaff.
    • Dryden
      So take the corn and leave the chaff behind.
  2. (by extension) Any excess or unwanted material, resource, or person; anything worthless.
    There are plenty of good books on the subject, but take care to separate the wheat from the chaff.
    • Shakespeare
      the chaff and ruin of the times
  3. Loose material, e.g. small strips of aluminum foil, dropped from aircraft specifically to interfere with radar detection.
  4. Straw or hay cut up fine for the food of cattle.
    • Wyatt
      By adding chaff to his corn, the horse must take more time to eat it. In this way chaff is very useful.
  5. Light jesting talk; banter; raillery.

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chaff (third-person singular simple present chaffs, present participle chaffing, simple past and past participle chaffed)

  1. (intransitive) To use light, idle language by way of fun or ridicule; to banter.
  2. (transitive) To make fun of; to turn into ridicule by addressing in ironical or bantering language; to quiz.