Kaf·​fir | \ ˈka-fər How to pronounce Kaffir (audio) \
variants: or Kafir

Definition of Kaffir

1 archaic : a member of a group of southern African Bantu-speaking peoples
2 often not capitalized, chiefly South Africa, offensive, see usage paragraph below used as an insulting and contemptuous term for a black African

Usage Discussion of Kaffir

In South Africa, the use of the term Kaffir to refer to a black African is a profoundly offensive and inflammatory expression of contemptuous racism that is sufficient grounds for legal action. The term is associated especially with the era of apartheid, when it was commonly used as an offensive racial slur, and its offensiveness has only increased over time. It now ranks as perhaps the most offensive term in South African English.

First Known Use of Kaffir

1778, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for Kaffir

Arabic kāfir infidel

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The first known use of Kaffir was in 1778

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Cite this Entry

“Kaffir.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Kaffir. Accessed 13 Jul. 2020.

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