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  1. an apparatus at the end of a railroad car, railroad track, etc., for absorbing shock during coupling, collisions, etc.
  2. any device, material, or apparatus used as a shield, cushion, or bumper, especially on machinery.
  3. any intermediate or intervening shield or device reducing the danger of interaction between two machines, chemicals, electronic components, etc.
  4. a person or thing that shields and protects against annoyance, harm, hostile forces, etc., or that lessens the impact of a shock or reversal.
  5. any reserve moneys, negotiable securities, legal procedures, etc., that protect a person, organization, or country against financial ruin.
  6. buffer state.
  7. Ecology. an animal population that becomes the prey of a predator that usually feeds on a different species.
  8. Computers. a storage device for temporarily holding data until the computer is ready to receive or process the data, as when a receiving unit has an operating speed lower than that of the unit feeding data to it.
  9. Electronics. a circuit with a single output activated by one or more of several inputs.
  10. Chemistry.
    1. any substance or mixture of compounds that, added to a solution, is capable of neutralizing both acids and bases without appreciably changing the original acidity or alkalinity of the solution.
    2. Also called buffer solution.a solution containing such a substance.
verb (used with object)
  1. Chemistry. to treat with a buffer.
  2. to cushion, shield, or protect.
  3. to lessen the adverse effect of; ease: The drug buffered his pain.

Origin of buffer1

First recorded in 1825–35; buff2 + -er1
Related formsun·buff·ered, adjective


  1. a device for polishing or buffing, as a buff stick or buff wheel.
  2. a worker who uses such a device.

Origin of buffer2

First recorded in 1850–55; buff1 + -er1


noun British Slang.
  1. a foolish or incompetent person.
  2. a fellow; man.
  3. a chief boatswain's mate in the British navy.

Origin of buffer3

First recorded in 1680–90; origin uncertain


  1. a soft, thick, light-yellow leather with a napped surface, originally made from buffalo skin but later also from other skins, used for making belts, pouches, etc.
  2. a brownish-yellow color; tan.
  3. a buff stick or buff wheel.
  4. a devotee or well-informed student of some activity or subject: Civil War buffs avidly read the new biography of Grant.
  5. Informal. the bare skin: in the buff.
  6. Also called buffcoat. a thick, short coat of buffalo leather, worn especially by English soldiers and American colonists in the 17th century.
  7. Informal. a buffalo.
  1. having the color of buff.
  2. made of buff leather.
  3. Slang. physically attractive; muscular.
verb (used with object)
  1. to clean or polish (metal) or give a grainless finish of high luster to (plated surfaces) with or as if with a buff stick or buff wheel.
  2. to polish or shine, especially with a buffer: to buff shoes.
  3. to dye or stain in a buff color.

Origin of buff1

1545–55; 1900–05 for def 4; earlier buffe wild ox, back formation from buffle < Middle French < Late Latin būfalus; see buffalo; (def 4) originally a person enthusiastic about firefighting and firefighters, allegedly after the buff uniforms once worn by volunteer firefighters in New York City
Related formsbuff·a·bil·i·ty, nounbuff·a·ble, adjective


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10. burnish, shine.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for buffer

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • It was a large, quiet hand—like himself, somewhat suggestive of a buffer.

    Roden's Corner

    Henry Seton Merriman

  • The Y Bar outfit has been a sort of buffer between the two factions.

    Prairie Flowers

    James B. Hendryx

  • A new era began; the buffer was gone; my mother and Victoria were face and face.

    The King's Mirror

    Anthony Hope

  • In some ways it was a comfort to have this buffer between her and Dick.

    Jewel Weed

    Alice Ames Winter

  • He was sure of his ally, and very glad to use him as a buffer to receive the first shock.

    A Simpleton

    Charles Reade

British Dictionary definitions for buffer


  1. one of a pair of spring-loaded steel pads attached at both ends of railway vehicles and at the end of a railway track to reduce shock due to contact
  2. a person or thing that lessens shock or protects from damaging impact, circumstances, etc
  3. chem
    1. an ionic compound, usually a salt of a weak acid or base, added to a solution to resist changes in its acidity or alkalinity and thus stabilize its pH
    2. Also called: buffer solutiona solution containing such a compound
  4. computing a memory device for temporarily storing data
  5. electronics an isolating circuit used to minimize the reaction between a driving and a driven circuit
  6. short for buffer state
  7. hit the buffers informal to finish or be stopped, esp unexpectedly
verb (tr)
  1. to insulate against or protect from shock; cushion
  2. chem to add a buffer to (a solution)

Word Origin

C19: from buff ²


  1. any device used to shine, polish, etc; buff
  2. a person who uses such a device


  1. British informal, offensive a stupid or bumbling man (esp in the phrase old buffer)

Word Origin

C18: perhaps from Middle English buffer stammerer


    1. a soft thick flexible undyed leather made chiefly from the skins of buffalo, oxen, and elk
    2. (as modifier)a buff coat
    1. a dull yellow or yellowish-brown colour
    2. (as adjective)buff paint
  1. Also called: buffer
    1. a cloth or pad of material used for polishing an object
    2. a flexible disc or wheel impregnated with a fine abrasive for polishing metals, etc, with a power tool
  2. informal one's bare skin (esp in the phrase in the buff)
  1. to clean or polish (a metal, floor, shoes, etc) with a buff
  2. to remove the grain surface of (a leather)

Word Origin

C16: from Old French buffle, from Old Italian bufalo, from Late Latin būfalus buffalo


  1. (tr) to deaden the force of
  1. archaic a blow or buffet (now only in the phrase blind man's buff)

Word Origin

C15: back formation from buffet ²


  1. informal an expert on or devotee of a given subjecta cheese buff

Word Origin

C20: originally US: an enthusiastic fire watcher, from the buff-coloured uniforms worn by volunteer firemen in New York City
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for buffer


1835, agent noun from obsolete verb buff "make a dull sound when struck" (mid-16c.), from Old French bufe "a blow, slap, punch" (see buffet (n.2)); hence also "something that absorbs a blow."


1894, from buffer (n.). Related: Buffered; buffering.



1570s, buffe leather "leather made of buffalo hide," from Middle French buffle "buffalo" (15c., via Italian, from Latin bufalus; see buffalo (n.)).

The color term comes from the hue of buffalo hides (later ox hides). Association of "hide" and "skin" led c.1600 to in the buff. Buff-colored uniforms of New York City volunteer firefighters since 1820s led to meaning "enthusiast" (1903).

The Buffs are men and boys whose love of fires, fire-fighting and firemen is a predominant characteristic. [N.Y. "Sun," Feb. 4, 1903]



"well-built, hunky," 1980s, from buff (v.) "polish, make attractive."



"to polish, make attractive," 1885, in reference to the treatment of buff leather or else to the use of buff cloth in polishing metals, from buff (n.). Related: Buffed; buffing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

buffer in Medicine


  1. A substance that minimizes change in the acidity of a solution when an acid or base is added to the solution.
  1. To treat a solution with a buffer.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

buffer in Science


  1. Chemistry A substance that prevents change in the acidity of a solution when an acid or base is added to the solution or when the solution is diluted. Buffers are used to make solutions of known pH, especially for instrument calibration purposes. Natural buffers also exist in living organisms, where biochemical reactions are very sensitive to changes in pH.
  2. Computer Science A device or an area of a computer that temporarily stores data that is being transferred between two machines that process data at different rates, such as a computer and a printer.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

buffer in Culture


In chemistry, the components of a solution that can neutralize either an acid or a base and thus maintain a constant pH.


Buffers are often used in medications designed to decrease acidity in the stomach.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with buffer


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.