gaffer was our Word of the Day on 01/16/2014. Hear the podcast!
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Though movie and cinema buffs associate gaffer with Hollywood, the word actually pre-dates motion pictures by about 300 years. The first recorded use of gaffer dates from the 16th century, when it was used as a title of respect for an older gentleman. Later it was used as a generic noun for any elderly man, and then it picked up the sense "foreman" (still used in British English), perhaps because the foreman was the most experienced and, most likely, the oldest person in a work crew. Today gaffer is usually applied to the head lighting electrician on a movie set. The gaffer's assistant is called the best boy.
GAFFER Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of gaffer for English Language Learners
: a person who is in charge of the lights that are used when making a movie, television show, etc.
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