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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, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, informal) Foolish, silly, stupid.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:foolish
    a daft idea
    • 1602, David Lyndesay [i.e., David Lyndsay], Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaits, in Commendation of Vertew and Vitvperation of Vyce (in Scots), Edinburgh: Printed be Robert Charteris, →OCLC; republished as Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaits, in Commendation of Vertew and Vitvperation of Vyce (Early English Text Society, Original Series; no. 37), [London: Published for the Early English Text Society, by N[icholas] Trübner & Co., 1869], →OCLC, page 451, lines 2008–2010:
      Thou art the daftest fuill that ever I saw. / Trows thou, man, be the law to get remeid / Of men of kirk? Na, nocht till thou be deid.
      You are the daftest fool that ever I saw. / Trust you, man, by the law to get a remedy / From men of the church? No, not till you are dead.
    • 1819, Jedadiah Cleishbotham [pseudonym; Walter Scott], chapter II, in Tales of My Landlord, Third Series. [], volume III (A Legend of Montrose), Edinburgh: [] [James Ballantyne and Co.] for Archibald Constable and Co.; London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, []; Hurst, Robinson, and Co. [], →OCLC, pages 188–189:
      So that if a boor complains of a broken-head, or a beer-seller of a broken can, or a daft wench does but squeak loud enough to be heard above her breath, a soldier of honour shall be dragged, not before his own court-martial, who can best judge of and punish his demerits, but before a base mechanical burgo-master, who shall menace him with the rasp-house, the cord, and what not, as if he were one of their own mean, amphibious, twenty-breeched boors.
    • 1985, George MacDonald Fraser, chapter 1, in Flashman and the Dragon: From the Flashman Papers, 1860, London: Collins Harvill, →ISBN; republished New York, N.Y.: Plume, 1987, →ISBN:
      In case you haven't heard of them [the Taipings], I must tell you that they were another of those incredible phenomena that made China the topsy-turvey mess it was, like some fantastic land from Gulliver, where everything was upside down and out of kilter. Talk about moonbeams from cucumbers; the Taipings were even dafter than that.
    • 1990, Iain Pears, The Raphael Affair, London: Gollancz, →ISBN; republished New York, N.Y.: Harper, 2014, →ISBN, page 22:
      You haven't exactly been playing the master tactician through all this, but that seems the daftest course you could possibly have taken.
  2. (chiefly Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, 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: [] [James Ballantyne and Co.] for Archibald Constable and Co.; London: Hurst, Robinson, and Co., →OCLC, 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, 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, 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, “Who’s at My Window”, in Allan Cunningham, compiler, The Songs of Scotland, Ancient and Modern; [] In Four Volumes, volume III, London: Printed for John Taylor, [], →OCLC, 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, page 6, column 2.

Further reading[edit]


Middle English[edit]



  1. Alternative form of defte