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Etymology 1[edit]

Middle English, from Middle French gaffe, from Old Provençal gaf ‎(hook), derivative of gafar ‎(to sieze), from Gothic 𐌲𐌰𐍆𐍆- ‎(gaff-) derived from 𐌲𐌹𐌱𐌰𐌽 ‎(giban, to give).

Alternative forms[edit]

  • gaffe (minor error or faux pas)


gaff ‎(plural gaffs)

  1. A tool consisting of a large metal hook with a handle or pole, especially the one used to pull large fish aboard a boat.
  2. A minor error or faux pas.
    We politely ignored his gaff.
  3. A trick or con.
    The sideshow feat was a just a gaff, but the audience was too proud to admit they'd been fooled.
  4. (Britain, Ireland, slang) A place of residence.
    We're going round to Mike's gaff later to watch the footie.
  5. (nautical) The upper spar used to control a gaff-rigged sail.
  6. A garment worn to hide the genitals by some trans people.


gaff ‎(third-person singular simple present gaffs, present participle gaffing, simple past and past participle gaffed)

  1. To use a gaff, especially to land a fish.
  2. To cheat or hoax

Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

Perhaps from Old English gafsprǣc ‎(buffoonery, scurrility; blasphemous or ribald speech), from Old English gaf ‎(base, vile, lewd) + Old English sprǣc ‎(language, speech, talk)



  1. rough or harsh treatment; criticism
    1916, Edgar Rice Burrows, Beyond Thirty (aka The Lost Continent)[1], HTML edition, The Gutenberg Project, published 2008:
    "Numbers one, two, and five engines have broken down, sir," he called. "Shall we force the remaining three?" / "We can do nothing else," I bellowed into the transmitter. / "They won't stand the gaff, sir," he returned. / "Can you suggest a better plan?" I asked. / "No, sir," he replied. / "Then give them the gaff, lieutenant," I shouted back, and hung up the receiver.


  • Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia, gaff
  • New Oxford American Dictionary, gaff[2]