gaf·​fer | \ ˈga-fər How to pronounce gaffer (audio) \

Definition of gaffer

1 : an old man — compare gammer
2 British
b : employer
3 : a head glassblower
4 : a lighting electrician on a motion-picture or television set

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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.

Examples of gaffer in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web There’s a gaffer, there’s a cameraman, there’s the video village over there. Jamil Smith, Rolling Stone, 18 Mar. 2021 The movie’s visual style comes down to the exceptional work of cinematographer Zach Kuperstein (The Eyes of My Mother) and his crew of gaffer Joel Kingsbury, key grip Paul Wallace, and First AC Logan Gee. Josh Weiss, Forbes, 2 Mar. 2021 Most complaints come from people who are expecting something like gaffer tape. Bob Beacham,, 19 Dec. 2020 That’s a reference — real or exaggerated by the gaffer — to criticism Lod received last season. Jerry Zgoda, Star Tribune, 6 Nov. 2020 These positions include but are not limited to first AD (assistant director), gaffer, script supervisor, etc. Paul Grein, Billboard, 9 Sep. 2020 Houston Street, lined with shops selling sunglasses one week or gaffer’s tape the next, was another source. New York Times, 28 Sep. 2019 Studios have halted productions around the world in response to the coronavirus, putting actors, writers, truck drivers, sound engineers and gaffers out of work. Lucas Shaw,, 5 May 2020 The new gaffer has opted for a more youthful back line following the departure of Marmite figure David Luiz on deadline day, but the results have *not* been great., 28 Sep. 2019

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

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First Known Use of gaffer

1589, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for gaffer

phonetic reduction of godfather entry 1 (with initial vowel perhaps from grandfather entry 1)

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Cite this Entry

“Gaffer.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 Jul. 2021.

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More Definitions for gaffer



English Language Learners Definition of gaffer

: a person who is in charge of the lights that are used when making a movie, television show, etc.

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