\ ˈōf How to pronounce oaf (audio) \
plural oafs

Definition of oaf

1 : a stupid person : boob a thoughtless, clueless oafNew York Times
2 : a big clumsy slow-witted person Get out of my way, you big oaf.

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Other Words from oaf

oafish \ ˈō-​fish How to pronounce oaf (audio) \ adjective
oafishly adverb
oafishness noun

Oaf Has a Fanciful History

A long time ago in England, it was believed that goblins sometimes secretly exchanged their babies for human babies. This was used as an explanation when parents found themselves with a particularly ugly or deformed child: these parents wanted to believe that their real baby had been stolen by goblins, and the other left in its place. The label for such a child was auf, or alfe (meaning "goblin's child"), terms that were later altered to form our present-day oaf. Although the linguistic history is not entirely clear, auf and alfe are likely from the Middle English alven and elven, meaning "elf" or "fairy." Today the word oaf is no longer associated with unattractive babies and is instead applied to anyone who appears especially unintelligent or graceless.

Examples of oaf in a Sentence

it's not polite to call your brother a stupid oaf anyone who took him for an oaf and tried to cheat him would be in for a nasty surprise
Recent Examples on the Web Austin Theory’s character is literally an oaf who made another foolish decision that led to Johnny Gargano’s loss. Alfred Konuwa, Forbes, 25 Feb. 2021 Nowhere in Hansen’s pages is the impulsive, autocratic oaf seen by many of Castro’s critics. Steve Donoghue, The Christian Science Monitor, 12 Aug. 2019 Love truly is an open door with this inflatable oaf. Isabel Garcia, House Beautiful, 4 Dec. 2019 No one who touched the ball in the opposing penalty area as often as Kane was as good at not losing possession, showing that a target man doesn’t have to be a lumbering oaf whose primary skill is measuring in at over 6-foot-3. Jonathan Clegg, WSJ, 18 June 2018 For us straight dudes, however, being big and hairy means getting thought of as an ape—a big, dumb, smelly oaf. Dan Savage, Chicago Reader, 7 Feb. 2018 In Fitzpatrick, Doyle has created an extraordinarily creepy antagonist: a bully who plays dumb but always gets under the hero’s skin, a clumsy oaf who nevertheless can disappear like a cat into the darkness. J. Robert Lennon, New York Times, 31 Oct. 2017 Though comic buffoons and yokels are scattered through a number of Shakespeare’s tragedies, Lear’s universe is relentlessly bleak, and the Fool, despite his jingling, is neither oaf nor jester. Cynthia Ozick, New York Times, 25 Oct. 2017 Rob Gronkowski only played eight games, but Kelce—who played all sixteen—averaged more yards per game than New England’s lovable oaf. Clay Skipper, GQ, 7 Sep. 2017

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

1682, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for oaf

alteration of auf, alfe goblin's child, probably from Middle English alven, elven elf, fairy, from Old English elfen nymphs; akin to Old English ælf elf — more at elf

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Cite this Entry

“Oaf.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oaf. Accessed 24 Jul. 2021.

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More Definitions for oaf



English Language Learners Definition of oaf

: a stupid or awkward person


\ ˈōf How to pronounce oaf (audio) \

Kids Definition of oaf

: a stupid or awkward person

Other Words from oaf

oafish \ ˈō-​fish \ adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on oaf

Nglish: Translation of oaf for Spanish Speakers


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