ker·​fuf·​fle kər-ˈfə-fəl How to pronounce kerfuffle (audio)
plural kerfuffles
: a disturbance or commotion typically caused by a dispute or conflict
In all the kerfuffle, nobody seemed to have noticed Harry, which suited him perfectly.J. K. Rowling
It's not the only school with dress code issues; almost every week there's a local story about some kerfuffle over what kids wear to school.Belinda Luscombe

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The Evolution of Kerfuffle

Fuffle is an old Scottish verb that means “to muss” or “to throw into disarray”—in other words, to (literally) ruffle someone’s (figurative) feathers. The addition of car-, possibly from a Scottish Gaelic word meaning “wrong” or “awkward,” didn’t change its meaning much. In the 19th century carfuffle, with its variant curfuffle, became a noun, which in the 20th century was embraced by a broader population of English speakers and standardized to kerfuffle, referring to a more figurative feather-ruffling. There is some kerfuffle among language historians over how the altered spelling came to be favored. One theory holds that it might have been influenced by onomatopoeic words like kerplunk that imitate the sound of a falling object hitting a surface.

Example Sentences

predictably, the royal scandal caused quite a kerfuffle on Fleet Street
Recent Examples on the Web Unfortunately, in the kerfuffle following the 2020 election, Congress didn’t quite get to confirming Shelton’s nomination, although support was there. Nathan Lewis, Forbes, 5 May 2023 The kerfuffle has been such that officials at City Hall made a statement this week defending the work of the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, which officials thought was treated unfairly in online comments, some from Gillerson’s owner, Dan Emerson. Steve Lord, Chicago Tribune, 4 Sep. 2022 However, this edition has already caused a kerfuffle due to its controversial theme. Justin Ray, Robb Report, 1 May 2023 When the owners debuted Mount Vernon Triangle’s A Baked Joint in 2015, the lack of WiFi caused a minor kerfuffle, but the policy remains. Nevin Martell, Washington Post, 13 Apr. 2023 The kerfuffle, which unfolded on Thursday in Ste.-Marie-la-Mer, a town in the southwestern area of Pyrénées-Orientales, ignited outrage on social media, and even prompted the country’s interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, to defend the women’s rights. Elian Peltier, New York Times, 26 Aug. 2020 But before the kerfuffle, Facebook quietly changed its data use policy to allow research on people — four months after finishing the experiment. Michael Fitzgerald, Discover Magazine, 26 Nov. 2014 Uproar over the notion of a gas stove ban continued yesterday, even after the White House said that Biden is opposed to a federal ban, and the chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, whose commissioner started the whole kerfuffle earlier this week, poured cold water on the idea. Jeremy Beaman, Washington Examiner, 13 Jan. 2023 Speaking of true crime, there’s an extensive rundown in Rolling Stone on a big kerfuffle that’s been going on in the true-crime world, which revolves around Murder Squad’s Billy Jensen, the Exactly Right network, and multiple allegations of misconduct on Jensen’s part. Nicholas Quah, Vulture, 5 Aug. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'kerfuffle.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


alteration of carfuffle, from Scots car- (probably from Scottish Gaelic cearr wrong, awkward) + fuffle to become disheveled

First Known Use

1908, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of kerfuffle was in 1908


Dictionary Entries Near kerfuffle

Cite this Entry

“Kerfuffle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 May. 2023.

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