Definition of oaf
- a thoughtless, clueless oaf
- —New York Times
- Get out of my way, you big oaf.
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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
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.
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.
What made you want to look up oaf? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).
to lessen the seriousness or strength of
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