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 around Christianity Today’s December editorial calling for Trump’s removal sparked a reexamination of the durability of that support. Time, "I'm a Pastor Who Ran for Congress as a Republican. Here's Why I'm Encouraging My Fellow Evangelicals Not to Vote for Donald Trump," 31 Jan. 2020 The kerfuffle all began in 2012 when the Obama administration adopted a fuel-economy standard that would gradually increase the average miles-per-gallon rating for most cars to 54.5mpg by 2025 (about 40mpg under real-world conditions). Kate Cox, Ars Technica, "EPA reasoning for gutting fuel-economy rule doesn’t hold up, senator finds," 23 Jan. 2020 Somebody just told me something about that, some kerfuffle. Reggie Ugwu, New York Times, "Mac Miller and Jon Brion Had a Vision. It Almost Came True.," 20 Jan. 2020 Second, many Democrats (and their allies in the media) view the Facebook kerfuffle as an opportunity to outsource censorship of their political opponents to a private company. A. G. Hamilton, National Review, "No, Facebook Shouldn’t Be the Arbiter of Political Speech," 25 Oct. 2019 The kerfuffle started when Crimson reporters covered a campus protest where demonstrators called for the abolition of ICE because of its treatment of immigrants., "opposing campus journalists seeking comment," 25 Oct. 2019 The kerfuffle around the sauntering clown cosplayers has more to do with context—namely, the tourists’ (and, arguably, Joker director Todd Phillips’) total ignorance of it. Wired, "‘Joker Stairs’ and the Problem With Meme Tourism," 24 Oct. 2019 The international kerfuffle began after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey posted a tweet Friday expressing support for the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. Allan Smith, NBC News, "'Disgusting': U.S. politicians call out NBA for cowing to China amid Houston Rockets controversy," 7 Oct. 2019 Steps taken include the hiring of an independent law firm to audit ethics complaints about the way the RWA handled the kerfuffle. Andrew Dansby, Houston Chronicle, "As racism scandal escalates, Romance Writers of America board president resigns," 9 Jan. 2020

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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Time Traveler for kerfuffle

Time Traveler

The first known use of kerfuffle was in 1908

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Last Updated

10 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Kerfuffle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Feb. 2020.

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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

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