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”).
kerf (plural kerfs)
- (now rare) The act of cutting or carving something; a stroke or slice.
- 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.
- The distance between diverging saw teeth.
- 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.
- The portion or quantity (e.g. of hay, turf, wool, etc.) cut off in a given stroke.
- 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)
See the etymology of the main entry.