\ 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
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

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
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

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about gaff

Time Traveler for gaff

Time Traveler

The first known use of gaff was circa 1656

See more words from the same year

Statistics for gaff

Cite this Entry

“Gaff.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gaff. Accessed 24 Sep. 2020.

More from Merriam-Webster on gaff

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for gaff

Nglish: Translation of gaff for Spanish Speakers

Comments on gaff

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Homophone Quiz

  • three bears two of them look like theyre whispering to a third bear who looks chuffed to be the center of attention
  • In order to judge how people felt, the senator's office hired a firm to take a ______.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

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!