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[luhf] /lʌf/
noun, Nautical.
the forward edge of a fore-and-aft sail.
verb (used without object)
to bring the head of a sailing ship closer to or directly into the wind, with sails shaking.
(of a sail) to shake from being set too close to the wind:
The sail luffed as we put about for port.
to raise or lower the outer end of the boom of a crane or derrick so as to move its load horizontally.
verb (used with object)
to set (the helm of a ship) in such a way as to bring the head of the ship into the wind.
to raise or lower the outer end of (the boom of a crane or derrick).
Origin of luff
1175-1225; Middle English lof, loof steering gear (compare Old French lof) < Middle Dutch (unrecorded), later Dutch loef tholepin (of tiller)
Related forms
unluffed, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for luff
Historical Examples
  • It is probable the enemy did not keep his luff, towards the last, on account of the land.

    Ned Myers James Fenimore Cooper
  • And they did, me staying aboard the Hattie to luff her for them to get away.

    Sonnie-Boy's People James B. Connolly
  • Love, luff, occurs generally as a personal name, hence the dim.

    The Romance of Names

    Ernest Weekley
  • "luff a little," he added, as he discovered the dim outline of the shore.

    In School and Out Oliver Optic
  • They did not dare to luff her to the west or bear her away to the east.

    Heroes of the Goodwin Sands

    Thomas Stanley Treanor
  • He's lyin' luff in Fammuth town, my deear; but 'ee must be very careful.

    The Birthright Joseph Hocking
  • The old word for "keep your luff," in the act of sailing to the wind.

    The Sailor's Word-Book William Henry Smyth
  • The reverse is, "Keep your wind, keep your luff," close to the wind.

    The Sailor's Word-Book William Henry Smyth
  • The yard is two-thirds of the breadth at foot, and is slung at one-fourth from the luff.

    The Sailor's Word-Book William Henry Smyth
  • Shake up, you gibbering fools; luff her a bit and make fast.

    The Iron Pirate Max Pemberton
British Dictionary definitions for luff


(nautical) the leading edge of a fore-and-aft sail
tackle consisting of a single and a double block for use with rope having a large diameter
(nautical) to head (a sailing vessel) into the wind so that her sails flap
(intransitive) (nautical) (of a sail) to flap when the wind is blowing equally on both sides
to move the jib of (a crane) or raise or lower the boom of (a derrick) in order to shift a load
Word Origin
C13 (in the sense: steering gear): from Old French lof, perhaps from Middle Dutch loef peg of a tiller; compare Old High German laffa palm of hand, oar blade, Russian lapa paw
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
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Word Origin and History for luff

c.1200, in sailing, from Old French lof "spar," or some other nautical device, "point of sail," also "windward side," probably from Germanic (cf. Middle Dutch lof "windward side of a ship" (Dutch loef), which might also be the direct source of the English word), from Proto-Germanic *lofo (cf. Old Norse lofi, Gothic lofa "palm of the hand," Danish lab, Swedish labb "paw"), from PIE *lep- "to be flat" (see glove). As a verb from late 14c., from the noun.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for luff


Related Terms

first luff

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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