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

Keep scrolling for more

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 And there was a late-breaking kerfuffle about the Ukraine activities of Rudy Giuliani (75), while the president added Alan Dershowitz (81) and Ken Starr (73) to his legal team. Thomas E.l. Dewey, WSJ, "Senior Leaders on the Hill—and Over It," 22 Jan. 2020 Off to one side stood the subject of the kerfuffle, several women, in sweeping black abayas and veils that covered all but their eyes, and three children: a girl and two boys. Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times, "At the Iranian Border, Iraqis Try to Keep a Virus From Entering," 13 Mar. 2020 There was a brief kerfuffle over whether an ex-professional esports player on Google's team should be allowed to participate in the league, since is aimed at people who don't play games as a full-time job. Shannon Liao, CNN, "A 22-year-old Harvard grad launched his own amateur esports company for adult gamers," 22 Feb. 2020 Sunriver firefighters responded, and reported that the kerfuffle was apparently caused by some pilot lights in the kitchen that weren’t functioning properly. oregonlive, "‘American Idol’: Sunriver auditions continue after firefighter heroics at the Oregon resort," 26 Feb. 2020 Remember the kerfuffle that happened in August when Stephen Ross—investor, real estate developer, and billionaire owner of the Miami Dolphins—hosted a glitzy Hamptons fundraiser to support President Trump’s re-election campaign? Fortune, "A Trump-tied investor set off an Equinox boycott. What about the tampon startup he backs?," 21 Feb. 2020 That's because no matter who's snubbed or what unbelievable onstage kerfuffles might transpire, there's never a shortage of iconic hair looks, from Halle Berry's famous pixie to Angelina Jolie's casual bombshell blowout. Erika Stalder,, "13 Oscars Hairstyles That Will Go Down In History," 9 Feb. 2020 And the way the NBA salary cap might be headed in the wake of the China kerfuffle, his salary might remain the highest on the Heat’s books over the next four seasons. 2. Ira Winderman,, "Winderman: Assessing the ups and downs of Heat preseason | Commentary," 19 Oct. 2019 The kerfuffle in Florida comes as school testing across the country is increasingly making the news - for all the wrong reasons, according to education experts. The Washington Post, oregonlive, "Trump = Idiot test answer lands teacher in hot water," 27 Sep. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about kerfuffle

Time Traveler for kerfuffle

Time Traveler

The first known use of kerfuffle was in 1908

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about kerfuffle

Statistics for kerfuffle

Last Updated

15 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Kerfuffle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Jul. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

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).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words for Summer: A Quiz

  • a closeup of a sunflower
  • Which of the following words means “of or relating to summer”?
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!