ker·​fuf·​fle kər-ˈfə-fəl How to pronounce kerfuffle (audio)
plural kerfuffles
: 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 is an old Scottish verb that means “to muss” or “to throw into disarray”—in other words, to (literally) ruffle someone’s (figurative) feathers. The addition of car-, possibly from a Scottish Gaelic word meaning “wrong” or “awkward,” didn’t change its meaning much. In the 19th century carfuffle, with its variant curfuffle, became a noun, which in the 20th century was embraced by a broader population of English speakers and standardized to kerfuffle, referring to a more figurative feather-ruffling. There is some kerfuffle among language historians over how the altered spelling came to be favored. One theory holds that it might have been influenced by onomatopoeic words like kerplunk that imitate the sound of a falling object hitting a surface.

Examples of kerfuffle in a Sentence

predictably, the royal scandal caused quite a kerfuffle on Fleet Street
Recent Examples on the Web Buffering usually avoids these momentary kerfuffles in order to focus on the Big Picture of the streaming business … but not today. Vulture, 27 Oct. 2023 The cause of the kerfuffle is the arrival of two American flamingos, tropical birds who have no business being anywhere around here, which have taken up residence in marshland on opposite ends of the island and don’t seem to be in a hurry to leave. Joe Heim, Washington Post, 20 Oct. 2023 Unity apparently didn't learn anything from the Reddit kerfuffle. Kegan Mooney, PCMAG, 18 Sep. 2023 Despite the VMAs kerfuffle, SZA is currently powering through the final leg of her SOS headlining arena tour. Kyle Denis, Billboard, 15 Sep. 2023 This has caused, to put it mildly, no end of kerfuffle. Josef Adalian, Vulture, 14 Sep. 2023 His follow-up feature is a biopic of famous composer Leonard Bernstein, with Cooper yet again in the lead role, swapping out Jackson Maine’s self-tanner for some questionable prosthetics that have already caused quite a kerfuffle in the lead-up to the premiere. Bilge Ebiri, Vulture, 29 Aug. 2023 For now, the research is still basic enough, and exploratory enough, that there hasn’t been any cause for a kerfuffle. IEEE Spectrum, 22 Aug. 2023 Outside of our personal kerfuffle and our personal relationship, which actually was wonderful for the most part. Okla Jones, Essence, 18 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'kerfuffle.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


alteration of carfuffle, from Scots car- (probably from Scottish Gaelic cearr wrong, awkward) + fuffle to become disheveled

First Known Use

1908, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of kerfuffle was in 1908


Dictionary Entries Near kerfuffle

Cite this Entry

“Kerfuffle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Nov. 2023.

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