\ˈgaf \

Definition of gaffe 

1 : a social or diplomatic blunder committed an embarrassing gaffe when he mispronounced her name

2 : a noticeable mistake Kwan did not fall today, as she had in Friday's short program, a gaffe that left her in fourth place.— Christopher Clarey

Keep scrolling for more

Examples of gaffe in a Sentence

He realized that he had committed an awful gaffe when he mispronounced her name. committed a huge gaffe when she started drinking from the finger bowl

Recent Examples on the Web

With Arkansas looking worried after the gaffe, the Beavers started to rally. Jenna West,, "Watch: Arkansas Loses College World Series Clincher With Foul Ball Gaffe," 27 June 2018 Oake tried to move on from the gaffe by trying to shake hands with Kopitar, but Kopitar went straight to the stage. Eduardo Gonzalez,, "NHL Awards get awkward when card trick meant to celebrate Kings' Kopitar falls flat," 21 June 2018 Regardless, the gaffe opened the floodgates on social media, and the Sixers’ resident Twitter expert, Joel Embiid (fresh off playing tennis at a public court at 10th and Lombard Streets), didn’t disappoint. Rob Tornoe,, "Joel Embiid mocks J.R. Smith's blunder; LeBron James has some words for an ESPN reporter," 1 June 2018 Bishop is unlikely to commit the type of major gaffe that may be necessary to upend his advantage. NBC News, "If Democrats can win here, they're on the way to a wave," 11 June 2018 Secretariat was going much too fast and might have blown up at any second, in which case tremendous machine would live on as a gaffe. Tim Layden,, "Remembering Chic Anderson’s Legendary Call of Secretariat’s Record Run at 1973 Belmont Stakes," 4 June 2018 This persistent image problem is exacerbated by public relations gaffes. Sean W. Fleming, WIRED, "Lessons from Montecito: Science's Credibility Is At Stake," 14 May 2018 But the ad, in fact, boosted the gaffe-prone Mr. Akin with Republican primary voters, exactly what Ms. McCaskill wanted. Nicholas Fandos, New York Times, "In Missouri, Governor’s Scandal Ensnares a Republican-Leaning Senate Race," 12 Apr. 2018 Throughout his career, Johnson has managed to surmount the sort of gaffes that have brought other politicians down. Gregory Katz, The Seattle Times, "Out as UK foreign secretary: One more twist in Boris saga," 9 July 2018

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

See More

First Known Use of gaffe

1909, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for gaffe

borrowed from French, probably a sense development of gaffe gaff entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about gaffe

Dictionary Entries near gaffe








Statistics for gaffe

Last Updated

24 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for gaffe

The first known use of gaffe was in 1909

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for gaffe



English Language Learners Definition of gaffe

: a mistake made in a social situation

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on gaffe

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with gaffe

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for gaffe

Spanish Central: Translation of gaffe

Nglish: Translation of gaffe for Spanish Speakers

Comments on gaffe

What made you want to look up gaffe? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a typical or ideal example

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Find the Cousins

  • a-large-tree-with-many-branches
  • Which pair shares a common word ancestor?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!