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.

Example Sentences

predictably, the royal scandal caused quite a kerfuffle on Fleet Street
Recent Examples on the Web There was a bit of a kerfuffle over a potential eruption spotted at Meru in Tanzania, but the plume was actually from a large wildfire on the slopes of the volcano that last erupted over 100 years ago. Erik Klemetti, Discover Magazine, 23 Sep. 2015 The kerfuffle began July 15, when the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Governors Assn. Seema Mehta, Los Angeles Times, 26 July 2022 His sister took the opportunity of the U.N. auspices to hold a press conference to try to bring attention to his case, which developed into a kerfuffle when an Egyptian legislator tried to shout her down and was escorted away by U.N. security. Bill Mckibben, The New Yorker, 10 Nov. 2022 Did anyone notice the Instagram kerfuffle that occupied a few jazz buffs earlier this month? Bill Beuttler,, 25 Jan. 2023 Berhalter, who is spending every available moment poring over it, finds the whole kerfuffle more amusing than controversial. Joshua Robinson, WSJ, 2 Dec. 2022 Yet, all this kerfuffle has come with absolutely no change in the state of Yellowstone itself. Erik Klemetti, Discover Magazine, 11 Jan. 2016 The most recent kerfuffle started when someone asked Dorit on WWHL if LVP had reached out to her and PK in the wake of her break-in. Brian Moylan, Vulture, 23 May 2022 And there was a weekslong kerfuffle about why one candidate for governor refused to debate the other. Richard Ruelas, The Arizona Republic, 8 Nov. 2022 See More

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.

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 22 Mar. 2023.

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