noun, informal
ker·​fuf·​fle | \ kər-ˈfə-fəl How to pronounce kerfuffle (audio) \
plural kerfuffles

Definition of kerfuffle

: 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 was first used in Scottish English, as early as the 16th century, as a verb meaning "to dishevel." The addition of the prefix car- (possibly derived from a Scottish Gaelic word meaning "wrong" or "awkward") didn't change the meaning of the word considerably. In the 19th century carfuffle, with its variant curfuffle, became a noun, and in the 20th century it was embraced by a broader population of English speakers and standardized to kerfuffle. There is some dispute among language historians over how the altered spelling came to be favored. One theory holds that it might have been influenced by imitative words like kerplunk, where the syllable ker- is simply added for emphasis.

Examples of kerfuffle in a Sentence

predictably, the royal scandal caused quite a kerfuffle on Fleet Street
Recent Examples on the Web The kerfuffle over those remarks lasted more than a week, well after the storm devastated the Bahamas and caused major damage in the Carolinas. Allan Smith, NBC News, "Internal NOAA emails detail blowback to Trump hurricane claims: 'This has really gotten out of hand'," 7 Nov. 2019 Indeed, the Warren–Zuckerberg kerfuffle is a prime example of the phenomenon. Republicans dislike Facebook and the other tech giants because those companies wantonly discriminate against conservative points of view. Graham Hillard, National Review, "Warren Would Break Up Big Tech. Conservatives, Make Your Pitch.," 8 Oct. 2019 But on Muni Heritage Weekend, all the snags and kerfuffles of the daily Muni commute seemed to be forgotten. Steve Rubenstein,, "Muni brings out vintage buses and streetcars for transit heritage fest," 7 Sep. 2019 Barely a year after the kerfuffle around that article, a panel of scientists convened by the United Nations issued a dire report, which forecast severe climate change as soon as 2040. Marc Tracy, New York Times, "As the World Heats Up, the Climate for News Is Changing, Too," 8 July 2019 Anxiety about race has been a country music constant for decades, right up through this year’s Lil Nas X kerfuffle. Jon Caramanica, New York Times, "Ken Burns’s ‘Country Music’ Traces the Genre’s Victories, and Reveals Its Blind Spots," 12 Sep. 2019 While the flatulence kerfuffle struck Homa Bay County, a bigger issue unraveled this week in Kenya’s national assembly. Jennifer Hassan, Washington Post, "‘One of us has polluted the air’: Fart forces county lawmakers to suspend debate in Kenya," 10 Aug. 2019 Yet for all its similarity to other HOA kerfuffles, the Carmel Valley case may also say something about this particular time in American life. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Brit to HOA: ‘The flag is absolutely not coming down’," 1 Sep. 2019 Earlier in their set, The Who had been briefly interrupted by an activist who grabbed Townshend’s mic, leading to an onstage kerfuffle. Raisa Bruner, Time, "Watch the 10 Most Memorable Performances at Woodstock," 9 Aug. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'kerfuffle.' 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 kerfuffle

1908, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for kerfuffle

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

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Learn More about kerfuffle

Time Traveler for kerfuffle

Time Traveler

The first known use of kerfuffle was in 1908

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Statistics for kerfuffle

Last Updated

1 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Kerfuffle.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 10 December 2019.

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More from Merriam-Webster on kerfuffle

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for kerfuffle

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with kerfuffle

Britannica English: Translation of kerfuffle for Arabic Speakers

Comments on kerfuffle

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


to state or do over again or repeatedly

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