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  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 a soft, thick, light-yellow leather with a napped surface, originally made from buffalo skin but later also from other skins, used for making belts, pouches, etc.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.


verb (used with object)
  1. to reduce or deaden the force of; act as a buffer.
  1. Chiefly British Dialect. a blow; slap.

Origin of buff2

1375–1425; late Middle English buffe, back formation from buffet1


  1. buffe.


or buff

noun Armor.
  1. plate armor for the lower part of the face and the throat, used with a burgonet.

Origin of buffe

1590–1600; < Middle French < Italian buffa, probably special use of buffa puff of breath, hard breath; see buffoon
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for buffs


pl n
  1. the Buffs the Third Regiment of Foot, esp the Royal East Kent Regiment

Word Origin

C19: from their buff-coloured facings


    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 buffs



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

Idioms and Phrases with buffs


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