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From Middle English dafte, defte (gentle; having good manners; humble, modest; awkward; dull; boorish), from Old English dæfte (accommodating; gentle, meek, mild),[1], from Proto-West Germanic *daftī (fitting, suitable), ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *dʰh₂ebʰ- (fitting; to fit together). Related to Old English dafnian, dafenian (to be fitting, appropriate, or becoming), Russian до́брый (dóbryj, good).

Compare silly which originally meant “blessed; good, innocent; pitiful; weak”, but now means “laughable or amusing through foolishness or a foolish appearance; mentally simple, foolish”.[2]

Unrelated to, though perhaps influenced by, daff (fool (n.); to be foolish (v.)) (past form daffed).



daft (comparative dafter, superlative daftest)

  1. (chiefly Britain, informal) Foolish, silly, stupid.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:foolish
    a daft idea
  2. (chiefly Britain, informal) Crazy, insane, mad.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:insane
    • 1824 June, [Walter Scott], “Darsie Latimer’s Journal, in Continuation. Sheet 2.”, in Redgauntlet, [], volume II, Edinburgh: [] Archibald Constable and Co.; London: Hurst, Robinson, and Co., OCLC 926803915, pages 143–144:
      "Ow, he is just a wood harum-scarum creature, that wad never take to his studies;—daft, sir, clean daft." / [] / "[W]owff—a wee bit by the East-Nook or sae; it's a common case—the ae half of the warld thinks t'other daft. I have met with folks in my day, that thought I was daft mysell; []" / "I cannot make out a word of his cursed brogue," said the Cumbrian justice; "can you, neighbour—eh? What can he mean by deft?" / "He means mad", said the party appealed to, thrown off his guard by impatience of this protracted discussion.
    • 1843 April, “The Vale of Glencoe: A Tale of Scotland”, in The Knickerbocker, or New-York Monthly Magazine, volume XXI, number 4, New York, N.Y.: Published by John Allen, [], OCLC 1042245072, page 339:
      The boy gathered himself up, shook his shaggy head, and, said, in a piteous tone: 'Davie's daft!' 'Davie's daft!' He then kicked the poor idiot till his cries attracted the attention of the guests, some of whom immediately came to the spot: []
    • 1876, S[arah] R. Whitehead, “On the Wrong Coach”, in Daft Davie and Other Sketches of Scottish Life and Character, London: Hodder and Stoughton, [], OCLC 58040708, page 220:
      ‘It’s a lee [lie],’ says the man; ‘she’s either drunk or daft.’ / ‘Me drunk, you ill-tongued vagabond!’ says my Auntie Kirsty, who couldna bear such a reproach on her good name, ‘I’m a’ but blackfasting this day from either meat or drink; you had better no meddle wi’ my character.’
  3. (obsolete) Gentle, meek, mild.
    • 1825, Allan Cunningham, compiler, “Who’s at My Window”, in The Songs of Scotland, Ancient and Modern; [] In Four Volumes, volume III, London: Printed for John Taylor, [], OCLC 847583, page 334:
      There's mirth in the barn and the ha', the ha', / There's mirth in the barn and the ha': / There's quaffing and laughing, / And dancing and daffing; / And our young bride's daftest of a', of a', / And our young bride's daftest of a'.

Derived terms[edit]

Terms derived from daft

Related terms[edit]



  1. ^ dafte, adj.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 28 June 2018.
  2. ^ James A. H. Murray [et al.], editors (1884–1928), “Daft, a.”, in A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles (Oxford English Dictionary), volume III (D–E), London: Clarendon Press, OCLC 15566697, page 6, column 2.

Further reading[edit]


Middle English[edit]



  1. Alternative form of defte