noun (1)
\ ˈgaf How to pronounce gaff (audio) \

Definition of gaff

 (Entry 1 of 5)

1a : a handled hook for holding or lifting heavy fish
b : a spear or spearhead for taking fish or turtles
c : a metal spur for a gamecock
d : a butcher's hook
e : a climbing iron or its steel point
2 : the spar (see spar entry 1 sense 2a) on which the head of a fore-and-aft sail is extended
3 : gaffe


verb (1)
gaffed; gaffing; gaffs

Definition of gaff (Entry 2 of 5)

transitive verb

1 : to strike or secure with a spear or hook gaff a salmon
2 : to fit (a gamecock) with a metal spur


noun (2)

Definition of gaff (Entry 3 of 5)

1a : something painful or difficult to bear : ordeal usually used in the phrase stand the gaff especially : persistent raillery or criticism
b : rough treatment : abuse
2a : hoax, fraud
b : gimmick, trick


verb (2)
gaffed; gaffing; gaffs

Definition of gaff (Entry 4 of 5)

transitive verb

1 : deceive, trick also : fleece
2 : to fix for the purpose of cheating gaff the dice


noun (3)

Definition of gaff (Entry 5 of 5)

: a cheap theater or music hall

First Known Use of gaff

Noun (1)

circa 1656, in the meaning defined at sense 1b

Verb (1)

1844, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun (2)

1896, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Verb (2)

1933, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun (3)

1812, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for gaff

Noun (1)

borrowed from French gaffe, going back to Middle French, borrowed from Old Occitan gaf, probably derivative of gafar "to seize," of obscure origin

Note: Middle English gaffe, occurring in the early 14th-century "Kildare Poems" (British Library MS Harley 913) and glossed "iron hook" in the Middle English Dictionary, is of uncertain relation to the modern word. It predates attestations of the word in French.

Verb (1)

derivative of gaff entry 1

Noun (2)

of obscure origin

Verb (2)

probably derivative of gaff entry 3

Noun (3)

of obscure origin

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Cite this Entry

“Gaff.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Apr. 2021.

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