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verb (used with object)
  1. to mislead by a display of strength, self-confidence, or the like: He bluffed me into believing that he was a doctor.
  2. to gain by bluffing: He bluffed his way into the job.
  3. Poker. to deceive by a show of confidence in the strength of one's cards.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to mislead someone by presenting a bold, strong, or self-confident front: That open face makes it impossible for him to bluff.
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  1. an act or instance or the practice of bluffing: Her pathetic story was all a bluff to get money from us. His assertive manner is mostly bluff.
  2. a person who bluffs; bluffer: That big bluff doesn't have a nickel to his name.
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  1. call someone's bluff, to expose a person's deception; challenge someone to carry out a threat: He always said he would quit, so we finally called his bluff.
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Origin of bluff2

1665–75; perhaps < Low German bluffen to bluster, frighten; akin to Middle Dutch bluffen to make a trick at cards
Related formsbluff·a·ble, adjectivebluff·er, nounun·bluff·a·ble, adjectiveun·bluffed, adjectiveun·bluff·ing, adjective


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

Related Words

pretend, delude, fool, lie, humbug, shuck, sham, feign, snow, trick, beguile, mislead, simulate, fake, affect, juggle, counterfeit, betray, defraud, con

Examples from the Web for bluffing

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • You fancy a chap's bluffing when he's doing nothing of the sort.

    Ruggles of Red Gap

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • I think he saw that I meant exactly what I said—and I was not bluffing.

    The Death-Traps of FX-31

    Sewell Peaslee Wright

  • They got somebody, or else they were only bluffing when they waved that scalp.

    Warrior Gap

    Charles King

  • Not bluffing exactly, either, because they'll go through with it as long as they last.


    Edward Elmer Smith

  • Come right on to the shore, then, and don't try any bluffing.

British Dictionary definitions for bluffing


  1. to pretend to be confident about an uncertain issue or to have undisclosed resources, in order to influence or deter (someone)
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  1. deliberate deception intended to create the impression of a stronger position or greater resources than one actually has
  2. call someone's bluff to challenge someone to give proof of his claims
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Derived Formsbluffer, noun

Word Origin

C19: originally US poker-playing term, from Dutch bluffen to boast


  1. a steep promontory, bank, or cliff, esp one formed by river erosion on the outside bend of a meander
  2. Canadian a clump of trees on the prairie; copse
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  1. good-naturedly frank and hearty
  2. (of a bank, cliff, etc) presenting a steep broad face
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Derived Formsbluffly, adverbbluffness, noun

Word Origin

C17 (in the sense: nearly perpendicular): perhaps from Middle Dutch blaf broad
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 bluffing


1845, in the poker sense, verbal noun from bluff (v.).

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1839, American English, poker term, perhaps from Dutch bluffen "to brag, boast," or verbluffen "to baffle, mislead." An identical word meant "blindfold, hoodwink" in 1670s, but the sense evolution and connection are unclear; OED calls it "one of the numerous cant terms ... which arose between the Restoration and the reign of Queen Anne." Extended or figurative sense by 1854. Related: Bluffed; bluffing.

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"broad, vertical cliff," 1680s, from bluff (adj.) "with a broad, flat front" (1620s), a sailors' word, probably from Dutch blaf "flat, broad." Apparently a North Sea nautical term for ships with flat vertical bows, later extended to landscape features.

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1844 as an alternative name for poker; from bluff (v.). As "an act of bluffing" by 1864.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with bluffing


see call someone's bluff.

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