verb (used with object)
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Origin of buff1
OTHER WORDS FROM buffbuff·a·bil·i·ty, nounbuff·a·ble, adjective
Words nearby buff
Definition for buff (2 of 2)
verb (used with object)
Origin of buff2
ABOUT THIS WORD
What else does buff mean?
Buff originally refers to light-yellow leather made from buffalo skins. It has taken on many slang terms, though, including:
- being naked
- shining up something
- being muscular and fit
- being particularly knowledgeable about something
- and, in gaming lingo, strengthening a player’s stats.
Where does buff come from?
Before we get into all the different things buff can mean as a slang term, it’s helpful to go all the way back to the beginning. Buff, as you may have guessed, comes from buffalo. In the 1570s, buff leather referred to buffalo-skin leather, which is particularly thick and soft.
By the early 1600s, buff came to refer to nudity (as in in the buff) because of the association with naked (white) bodies and the creamy, light-yellow leather of buff.
In the 1800s, buff leather cloths were used to polish metals.
Buff became a verb by 1849 for polishing things to make them shiny and more attractive. It’s this sense of buff—”to polish and make attractive,” sometimes with actual oil—that people had in mind in the 1980s when they referred to someone who was physically fit as buff. This term was particularly applied to people who had big, bulging muscles (think Arnold Schwarzenegger) because, well, they look shiny and attractive.
Buff, for “strong and muscular,” is what gamers had in mind in the mid-1990s when they began to buff up their characters in role-playing games. Early references to buffing up players come from games like Ultima Online, where gamers would exchange tips on how to exploit rules to buff stats so their avatars would be harder, better, faster, stronger. The opposite of buffing a player is nerfing them (i.e., making them weaker, such as foam Nerf toy guns).
Finally, to understand how buff came to refer to someone with a particular interest and passion for something (like, say, a history buff), we have to go back to 1800s America. There weren’t standing fire departments in most cities, then, so instead, young men had to volunteer. These temporary firefighters became known in New York in the 1830s as fire buffs for the buff uniforms they wore.
By 1915, the term buff had spread to other domains to refer to an amateur enthusiast about anything, like a sports buff who can tell you the stats of every Pittsburgh Steeler dating back to the 1960s.
How is buff used in real life?
The meaning of buff varies widely depending on context.
While it sounds a bit dated these days (the expression is from the 1600s, after all), you can still refer to someone who is naked as being in the buff—usually with that specific phrasing. It’s a slightly more polite or humorous way to refer to nudity.
– I just told my wife that I saw some old photos of Bryan Cranston on set, in the buff.
– Breaking Bad nudes?
– No she seemed quite pleased tbh.
— Paul Eggleston (@pauleggleston) May 31, 2019
Whether you use an actual buff-leather cloth or not, polishing something to make it shine is still referred to as buffing it. Sometimes it’s modified with an intensifying up, as in to buff up something. This verb is transitive, so you’ll usually want to clarify what is being buffed (e.g., The choir boy buffed up his dress shoes).
Buff as an adjective usually refers to someone who is physically quite fit. It can also refer just generally to someone who is attractive, usually because of their physique, as in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is so buff.
In the gaming world, and especially MMORPGs, a buff player is one that has been improved in some way, either within the rules of the game, or not. You can cast a spell or use a potion to make your player buff—or you could use a cheat. You can also give a buff to someone else, as it’s said, meaning you give them an item to help them out.
When you're playing an MMO and a nice rando heals you or gives you a buff pic.twitter.com/tAQm8iuOq2
— Chwistopher (@Loudwindow) November 25, 2018
Using buff for someone with a deep, if amateur, knowledge of a subject typically requires a description of what they’re interested in. There are history buffs, butterfly buffs, or fitness buffs.
More examples of buff:
“Nails should be one-eighth to one-quarter inch beyond the tip of the fingers. Buff or polish the nail.”
—Kathryn J. Volin, Buff and Polish, 2004
“In order to have a buff body, you must commit to a program that works.”
—Daryl Conant, Buff Daddy, 2011
This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.
Example sentences from the Web for buff
Then Ziegler tosses the buff LaBeouf around like a rag doll.Sia and Shia LaBeouf’s Pedophilia Nontroversy Over ‘Elastic Heart’|Marlow Stern|January 9, 2015|DAILY BEAST
The lacquer cures for 72 hours, and then is sanded by hand to buff out any imperfections.
Before William entered the pool, Charles joked, "I know my eldest will now demonstrate his buff credentials".
Anyone who wanted to see Shia LaBeouf without the buff is out of luck.‘This Is the End’ Is Last Blockbuster Rental Ever, Miley Cyrus Tweets About Pot Scandal|Culture Team|November 12, 2013|DAILY BEAST
Manchester knew that you were a World War II buff, and that you were deeply interested in Churchill long before you met him.The Final Roar: Paul Reid on Finishing William Manchester’s Life of Churchill|Kevin Canfield|November 16, 2012|DAILY BEAST
The upper part is of a coppery bronze colour, a band of buff crossing the lower end of the back.The Western World|W.H.G. Kingston
Off fly our jackets and stocks—it is not a day for buff—and at it like bull-dogs.Recreations of Christopher North, Volume 2|John Wilson
Its cap is large, thick and firm, smooth and broadly convex, sometimes pale yellow or buff.The Mushroom, Edible and Otherwise|M. E. Hard
The colour was buff, and there were seams of coal and lignite in places.A Canyon Voyage|Frederick S. Dellenbaugh
Reaching for a telegraph form, I was beginning to write when a maid entered and handed me a buff envelope.Sonia Between two Worlds|Stephen McKenna
British Dictionary definitions for buff (1 of 3)
- a soft thick flexible undyed leather made chiefly from the skins of buffalo, oxen, and elk
- (as modifier)a buff coat
- a dull yellow or yellowish-brown colour
- (as adjective)buff paint
- a cloth or pad of material used for polishing an object
- a flexible disc or wheel impregnated with a fine abrasive for polishing metals, etc, with a power tool
Word Origin for buff
British Dictionary definitions for buff (2 of 3)
Word Origin for buff
British Dictionary definitions for buff (3 of 3)
Word Origin for buff
Idioms and Phrases with buff
see in the buff.