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See also: Duff and DUFF



  • IPA(key): /dʌf/
  • (file)
    Rhymes: -ʌf

Etymology 1[edit]

Representing a northern England and Scots pronunciation of dough.


duff (countable and uncountable, plural duffs)

  1. (dialectal) Dough.
  2. A stiff flour pudding, often with dried fruit, boiled in a cloth bag, or steamed.
    • 1887, Harriet W. Daly, Digging, Squatting, and Pioneering Life in the Northern Territory of South Australia, page 196:
      Later on, all the tinned meat came to an end, likewise the potatoes, and we lived on salt meat, biscuit, and duff; this fare was served out to all the messes on board, and we, I was going to say, saloon-folk, fared no better than the fo'castle hands.
    • 1901, Henry Lawson, short story The Ghosts of Many Christmases, published in Children of the Bush [1]:
      The storekeeper had sent them an unbroken case of canned plum pudding, and probably by this time he was wondering what had become of that blanky case of duff.
    • 2000, Robert Barlas, Bahamas, page 118:
      Dessert is as substantial as the main course, and none more so than the absolute favorite, guava duff.
  3. A pudding-style dessert, especially one made with plums.
    • 1891, John R. Spears, “The Life of a Naval Apprentice”, in The Chautauquan, volume 13:
      They must live on sea food—a deal more of salt beef, pork, beans, and hard tack is than of any thing else, but of the food at sea well as in port it may here be said that it is ample in quantity and good enough anybody, though by no means all strawberry shortcake and cream or plum duff.
    • 2009, "Plum duff updated" by Graham Hawkes
      With Christmas well on its way let's take a look at a modern version of an old favourite dessert more often than not reserved for the day we celebrate the birth of Christ: plum duff. It is just as well Christmas falls during the summer school holidays as a nipper this allowed me to be at my grandmother's home when the true traditional plum duff was made.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

Uncertain; probably related to Proto-Indo-European *dʰewbʰ- (to whisk, smoke, darken, obscure).


duff (countable and uncountable, plural duffs)

  1. (Scotland, US) Decaying vegetable matter on the forest floor.
    • 1886, Annual Report of the Forest Commission of the State of New York
      Forest fires have often been started from wantonness; for the sake of making a big blaze, fires will be carelessly left by guides, or will be smouldering in the duff,* where it will burn for weeks. I have seen the smoke from fires in the duff even after the snow has fallen.
      * Local term for the vegetable growth covering the forest ground of the Adirondacks. under the spruce trees, the falling needles accumulate to considerable depth, forming the "spruce 'duff," a peculiar and interesting variety of forest humus.
    • 1935, "New Equipment for Obtaining Host Material for the Mass Production of Trichogramma Minutum, an Egg Parasite of Various Insect Pests" by Herbert Spencer, Luther Brown, Arthur M. Phillips (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
      These methods also make it possible for the forest officer to describe and to record his observations in precise terms such as “6% percent duff moisture” rather than in generalities such as “pretty dry duff.”
    • 1979, "Estimating pinyon and juniper fuel and biomass from aerial photographs" by Richard O. Meeuwig, Elwood LaVern Miller, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station (USDA Forest Service)
      Depth of litter and duff under the crown of each tree was measured at a point that appeared to represent average depth. Bulk samples of litter (including duff) were taken under four pinyons and three junipers, and ovendried.
    • 1991, "Woody Fuel and Duff Consumption by Prescribed Fire in Northern Idaho Mixed Conifer Logging Slash" from the U.S. Department of Agriculture
      The moisture content of the deep pockets of rotten wood was much greater than of the litter-derived duff layer.
    • 1999, George R.R. Martin, A Clash of Kings, Bantam, published 2011, page 366:
      Out under the trees, some rangers had found enough duff and dry wood to start a fire beneath a slanting ridge of slate.
    • 2006, Kathy Morey; Mike White; Stacey Corless, Sierra South: Backcountry Trips in Californias Sierra Nevada, page 250:
      The underfooting is mostly duff and sand, through alternating forest and meadow.
    • 2019, Nicola Twilley, “Trailblazers”, in The New Yorker:
      Their task was to carry out a prescribed burn--a carefully controlled, low-intensity fire that clears duff and deadwood, reducing the risk of a catastrophic wildfire.
  2. Coal dust, especially that left after screening or combined with other small, unsaleable bits of coal.
  3. Fine and dry coal in small pieces, usually anthracite.
    • 1917, William Henry Fowler, The Mechanical Engineer:
      The great bulk of the coal burnt under our boilers is duff of a very small size, and a mixed coal of duff, peas, and small nuts.
  4. (Britain) A mixture of coal and rock.
  5. (slang) The bits left in the bottom of the bag after the booty has been consumed, like crumbs.
  6. Something spurious or fake; a counterfeit, a worthless thing.
  7. (baseball, slang) An error. [1800s]


duff (comparative duffer, superlative duffest)

  1. (UK) Worthless; not working properly, defective.
    Why do I always get a shopping trolley with duff wheels?
    • 1996, Catherine Merriman, State of Desire[2], page 155:
      From its surface, he insisted, plain food became ambrosia, water nectar, and the duffest dope would blow your mind.
    • 2008 May 18, R J Smith, “Death Cab Is Up for the Long Haul”, in New York Times[3]:
      The band developed its sound, shamblingly at first, on the road, in an era before thousands of blog or YouTube users could form an opinion of a band based on some MySpace demos and a duff early gig in Tacoma.
    • 2009, Christopher Fowler, Paperboy[4], page 225:
      All the other parts were played by a gallery of Dickensian character actors, including Thorley Walters, Francis Matthews and, yes, Michael Ripper, who lent gravitas to the duffest dialogue lines.
  • (defective): bum (US)

Etymology 3[edit]

Uncertain; perhaps the same as Etymology 1, above.


duff (plural duffs)

  1. (US, slang) The buttocks.

Etymology 4[edit]

Originally thieves' slang; probably a back-formation from duffer.


duff (third-person singular simple present duffs, present participle duffing, simple past and past participle duffed)

  1. (slang, obsolete) To disguise something to make it look new.
  2. (Australia) To alter the branding of stolen cattle; to steal cattle.
  3. (US, golf) To hit the ground behind the ball.
Derived terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]

Etymology 5[edit]


duff (plural duffs)

  1. Alternative form of daf (type of drum)

See also[edit]