cof·​fle | \ ˈkȯ-fəl How to pronounce coffle (audio) , ˈkä- \

Definition of coffle

: a train of slaves or animals fastened together

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Coffle Has Arabic Roots

Coffle comes from the Arabic qāfila, which means "caravan" or "travelling company," though in English it has been used more specifically to refer to a group of slaves or animals chained or strung together. One of the earliest known uses of "coffle" in English is found in the explorer Mungo Park's 1799 Travels in the Interior of Africa. This was not the first time, however, that English had borrowed "qāfila." About two hundred years earlier "cafila" started appearing in print as an Anglicization of the Arabic qāfila to indicate a caravan or company of travelers in the Middle East and India.

Examples of coffle in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Jefferson’s great-grandson, William Stuart Bankhead, sent the Scott family and others into the Deep South, far from the places where they and their parents and grandparents had been born, in a coffle in 1846. Andrew M. Davenport, Smithsonian, "Putting Enslaved Families’ Stories Back in the Monticello Narrative," 14 June 2018 These immigrants followed African slaves brought there in coffles, waves of Chinese workers recruited for cane fields, and Vietnamese refugees who came after the war and became fisher folk on the Gulf. Casey Cep, New Republic, "Southern History, Deep Fried," 26 May 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'coffle.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of coffle

1799, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for coffle

Arabic qāfila caravan

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Cite this Entry

“Coffle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Feb. 2021.

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