duf·​fer ˈdə-fər How to pronounce duffer (audio)
: a peddler especially of cheap flashy articles
: something counterfeit or worthless
: an incompetent, ineffectual, or clumsy person
especially : a mediocre golfer
Australia : a cattle rustler

Did you know?

Duffers have never really been straight shooters-on or off the golf course. The original duffers of the mid-18th century were shysters of the first order, merchants who palmed off trashy goods as if they were highly valuable (they often implied to unwary buyers that the goods had been smuggled and were very rare). Over time, the meaning of duffer was extended from a no-good peddler to anyone who was "no good," not just because the individual had low morals, but because he or she was incompetent or stupid. The term has been applied to hopelessly bad golfers since the late 19th century.

Example Sentences

We joined the other duffers at the course. He's a lovable old duffer.
Recent Examples on the Web Certainly there is value in showing clips of Al Michaels’ golf swing, which made every duffer feel better about his/her swing, and in breaking down clips of Phil Mickelson tossing a football (quicker release than Trey Lance). Scott Ostler, San Francisco Chronicle, 15 Nov. 2021 Playing on the same course as some of the game’s greatest golfers can do that to a duffer like me, or any golfer, no matter their skill level. oregonlive, 5 July 2021 The designer and builder of the putting strips shown here says any patio putter or deck duffer can do the same. Popular Mechanics Editors, Popular Mechanics, 19 June 2021 Trump is the unmasked duffer clutching the wheel of a golf cart, zipping over knolls while his caddie — also unmasked — hangs off the back. Washington Post, 18 Nov. 2020 Donald Trump’s recent public appearances have been as a spectral duffer on his own golf course and as a disembodied voice in a news release congratulating the U.S. Marine Corps on its 245th birthday. Washington Post, 10 Nov. 2020 At the Lajitas Golf Resort, on an emerald course shimmering in the Chihuahuan Desert, the duffers and ringers were teeing off each morning last week. John Maccormack, San Antonio Express-News, 1 June 2020 Just as every country club duffer envisions himself on the back nine at The Masters, most weekend anglers have at some point fancied the idea of making a living fishing for bass. Pete Robbins, Field & Stream, 6 Mar. 2020 Chalamet is okay for Laurie’s teenaged phase, and Gerwig has every right to make Bhaer a little hotter than the middle-aged duffer in the book. Ross Douthat, National Review, 23 Jan. 2020 See More

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

Word History


perhaps from duff, noun, something worthless

First Known Use

1756, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of duffer was in 1756


Dictionary Entries Near duffer

Cite this Entry

“Duffer.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/duffer. Accessed 5 Dec. 2022.

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