\ 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 oafish (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

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, "Harry Kane: English Soccer’s Clark Kent," 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, "‘How does one get into the gay BDSM bottoming scene?’," 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, "A Stranger From the Past Confronts Roddy Doyle’s Latest Hero," 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, "King Lear Is Reborn as a 21st-Century Media Mogul," 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, "How the NFL's Travis Kelce Became the Most Fun Guy in the No Fun League," 7 Sep. 2017 The other is Trump himself, an uninformed and undisciplined oaf who likes to shoot from the hip. Jeet Heer, New Republic, "This Is Not a North Korean Crisis. It’s a Trump Crisis.," 10 Aug. 2017 But, regardless of which party wins on Thursday, criticizing the oaf in the White House will continue to be an applause line. John Cassidy, The New Yorker, "Theresa May’s Donald Trump Problem," 6 June 2017 Pally, a lovable oaf from sitcoms like Happy Endings and The Mindy Project, is extremely well-cast as Ben. David Sims, The Atlantic, "Band Aid Is a Bleak Dive Into a Marriage," 2 June 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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Oahe, Lake



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Time Traveler for oaf

The first known use of oaf was in 1682

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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

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More from Merriam-Webster on oaf

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with oaf

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for oaf

Spanish Central: Translation of oaf

Nglish: Translation of oaf for Spanish Speakers

Comments on oaf

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


concealment of treason or felony

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