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 Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for caitiff

dastard, rat, scoundrel, louse

Examples from the Web for caitiff

Historical Examples of caitiff

  • 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

British Dictionary definitions for caitiff



a cowardly or base person


cowardly; base

Word Origin for caitiff

C13: from Old French caitif prisoner, from Latin captīvus captive
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 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