Try Our Apps


Avoid these words. Seriously.


[key-tif] /ˈkeɪ tɪf/ Archaic.
a base, despicable person.
base; despicable.
Origin of caitiff
1250-1300; Middle English caitif < Anglo-French < Latin captīvus captive Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
Cite This Source
Examples from the Web for caitiff
Historical Examples
  • What man would be so caitiff and thrall as to fail you at your need?

    The White Company Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Her eloquent sighs and sobs soon told the caitiff he had nothing to fear.

    A Simpleton Charles Reade
  • I would not be so caitiff and so thrall as to leave you, when some small deed might still be done.

    Sir Nigel Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The proper thing to say to a bad man is, "caitiff, I hate thee."

    Nineteenth Century Questions James Freeman Clarke
  • Nay, his was no coward blood that would surrender to caitiff churls.

    A Clerk of Oxford

    Evelyn Everett-Green
  • It was blown by a caitiff negro, a deserter from Uncle Sams swart cavalry.

    The Sunset Trail Alfred Henry Lewis
  • The constable has sworn that the caitiff had pea-green hair.

  • The caitiff who had undersold them was in the village at that moment!

    The Woodlands Orchids Frederick Boyle
  • So long as this caitiff knight lives, your life will not be safe.

  • But now you can seize the caitiff who is come as a spy amongst your corn.

    Rural Rides William Cobbett
British Dictionary definitions for caitiff


a cowardly or base person
cowardly; base
Word Origin
C13: from Old French caitif prisoner, from Latin captīvuscaptive
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
Cite This Source
Word Origin and History for caitiff

c.1300, "wicked, base, cowardly," from Old North French caitive "captive, miserable" (Old French chaitif, 12c., Modern French chétif "puny, sickly, poor, weak"), from Latin captivum (see captive, which was a later, scholarly borrowing of the same word). In most Romance languages, it has acquired a pejorative sense.


c.1300, "wicked man, scoundrel," from Anglo-French caitif, noun use from Old North French caitive "captive, miserable" (see caitiff (adj.)). From mid-14c as "prisoner."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Nearby words for caitiff

Word Value for caitiff

Scrabble Words With Friends