• synonyms


[baf-uh l]
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verb (used with object), baf·fled, baf·fling.
  1. to confuse, bewilder, or perplex: He was baffled by the technical language of the instructions.
  2. to frustrate or confound; thwart by creating confusion or bewilderment.
  3. to check or deflect the movement of (sound, light, fluids, etc.).
  4. to equip with a baffle or baffles.
  5. Obsolete. to cheat; trick.
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verb (used without object), baf·fled, baf·fling.
  1. to struggle ineffectually, as a ship in a gale.
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  1. something that balks, checks, or deflects.
  2. an artificial obstruction for checking or deflecting the flow of gases (as in a boiler), sounds (as in the loudspeaker system of a radio or hi-fi set), light (as in a darkroom), etc.
  3. any boxlike enclosure or flat panel for mounting a loudspeaker.
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Origin of baffle

1540–50; 1910–15 for def 8; perhaps < Scots bauchle to disgrace, treat with contempt, equivalent to bauch (see baff) + -le
Related formsbaf·fle·ment, nounbaf·fler, nounbaf·fling, adjectivebaf·fling·ly, adverbbaf·fling·ness, nounun·baf·fled, adjectiveun·baf·fling, adjectiveun·baf·fling·ly, adverb


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1. See thwart.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for baffling

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • There had been in her gaze a conflict of emotions, strong and baffling.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • His face had altered in the last year, but not for the worse, which was baffling.

  • These women spoke a baffling language; their psychology was hard for me.

  • It was the most bewildering, the most baffling jig-saw of a business she had ever heard of.

    Love and Lucy

    Maurice Henry Hewlett

  • This unforeseen veil, baffling his curiosity checked his brusqueness.


    Joseph Conrad

British Dictionary definitions for baffling


  1. impossible to understand; perplexing; bewildering; puzzling
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Derived Formsbafflingly, adverb


verb (tr)
  1. to perplex; bewilder; puzzle
  2. to frustrate (plans, efforts, etc)
  3. to check, restrain, or regulate (the flow of a fluid or the emission of sound or light)
  4. to provide with a baffle
  5. obsolete to cheat or trick
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  1. Also called: baffle board, baffle plate a plate or mechanical device designed to restrain or regulate the flow of a fluid, the emission of light or sound, or the distribution of sound, esp in a loudspeaker or microphone
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Derived Formsbafflement, nounbaffler, noun

Word Origin

C16: perhaps from Scottish dialect bachlen to condemn publicly; perhaps related to French bafouer to disgrace
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 baffling


1783, "bewildering," present participle adjective from baffle (v.); earlier a sailor's adjective for winds that blow variously and make headway difficult (c.1770s).

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1540s, "to disgrace," perhaps a Scottish respelling of bauchle "to disgrace publicly" (especially a perjured knight), which is probably related to French bafouer "to abuse, hoodwink" (16c.), possibly from baf, a natural sound of disgust, like bah (cf. German baff machen "to flabbergast"). Meaning "to bewilder, confuse" is from 1640s; that of "to defeat someone's efforts" is from 1670s. Related: Baffled; baffling.

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"shielding device," 1881, from baffle (v.).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper