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See also: Kerf


Collecting resin: a pot pitched between a nail and a kerf in a tree.
A schematic drawing of a saw blade looking head-on: the divergence between the teeth that protrude left-and-right is the kerf, it defines the width of the saw cut.


From Middle English kerf, kirf, kyrf, from Old English cyrf (an act of cutting, a cutting off; a cutting instrument), from Proto-Germanic *kurbiz (a cut; notch), from Proto-Indo-European *gerbʰ- (to scratch).


  • IPA(key): /kɜːf/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɜː(ɹ)f


kerf (plural kerfs)

  1. (now rare) The act of cutting or carving something; a stroke or slice.
  2. The groove or slit created by cutting or sawing something; an incision.
    • 1999, Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon:
      They pass through a cleft that has been made across a low range of hills, like a kerf in the top of a log, and enter into a lovely territory of subtly swelling emerald green fields strewn randomly with small white capsules that he takes to be sheep.
  3. The distance between diverging saw teeth.
    • 1991, Popular Mechanics, January issue, page 63, "Thin-kerf blades", by Rosario Capotostro
      Sawing with a thin-kerf blade produces a kerf that's 1/2 to 1/3 the size of a standard blade kerf.
  4. The flattened, cut-off end of a branch or tree; a stump or sawn-off cross-section.
    • 1941, Vladimir Nabokov, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, Penguin 1971 edition, page 115:
      Sebastian, still not alone, is seated on the white-and-cinder-grey trunk of a felled tree. […] A Camberwell Beauty skims past and settles on the kerf, fanning its velvety wings.
  5. The portion or quantity (e.g. of hay, turf, wool, etc.) cut off in a given stroke.

Related terms[edit]



kerf (third-person singular simple present kerfs, present participle kerfing, simple past and past participle kerfed)

  1. To cut a piece of wood or other material with several kerfs to allow it to be bent.


  • kerf in The Century Dictionary, New York, N.Y.: The Century Co., 1911. (Supplement)




Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle Dutch kerve. The sense “insect” was borrowed from German Kerf.


kerf m (plural kerven, diminutive kerfje n)

  1. a carve or groove
  2. (rare, obsolete) insect
    Synonyms: insect, kerfdier, gekorven dier
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

See the etymology of the main entry.



  1. first-person singular present indicative of kerven
  2. imperative of kerven