• synonyms


[chaf, chahf]
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  1. the husks of grains and grasses that are separated during threshing.
  2. straw cut up for fodder.
  3. worthless matter; refuse.
  4. the membranous, usually dry, brittle bracts of the flowers of certain plants.
  5. Also called window. Military. strips of metal foil dropped by an aircraft to confuse enemy radar by creating false blips.
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Origin of chaff1

before 1000; Middle English chaf, Old English ceaf; cognate with Middle Low German, Dutch kaf
Related formschaff·less, adjectivechaff·like, adjective


[chaf, chahf]
verb (used with or without object)
  1. to mock, tease, or jest in a good-natured way; banter: She chaffed him for working late. They joked and chaffed with each other.
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  1. good-natured ridicule or teasing; raillery.
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Origin of chaff2

First recorded in 1640–50; perhaps from chaff1
Related formschaff·ing·ly, adverbun·chaffed, adjectiveun·chaff·ing, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for chaff

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • He collected what he wanted grain by grain from bushels of chaff.

    The Leopard Woman

    Stewart Edward White

  • When I had emptied myself of my chaff, I perceived that the time had come.

    Questionable Shapes

    William Dean Howells

  • All this was only chaff and fun, for all the fairies were in good humor.

    Welsh Fairy Tales

    William Elliott Griffis

  • A cry of surprise was raised, and drowned in a volley of ribald inquiry and chaff.

    The Black Bag

    Louis Joseph Vance

  • Geoff had to stand some chaff from his friends on the subject of the "darkey," of course.

    Great Uncle Hoot-Toot

    Mrs. Molesworth

British Dictionary definitions for chaff


  1. the mass of husks, etc, separated from the seeds during threshing
  2. finely cut straw and hay used to feed cattle
  3. something of little worth; rubbish (esp in the phrase separate the wheat from the chaff)
  4. the dry membranous bracts enclosing the flowers of certain composite plants
  5. thin strips of metallic foil released into the earth's atmosphere to confuse radar signals and prevent detection
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Derived Formschaffy, adjective

Word Origin

Old English ceaf; related to Old High German keva husk


  1. light-hearted teasing or joking; banter
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  1. to tease good-naturedly; banter
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Derived Formschaffer, noun

Word Origin

C19: probably slang variant of chafe, perhaps influenced by chaff 1
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 chaff


"husks," Old English ceaf "chaff," probably from Proto-Germanic *kaf- "to gnaw, chew" (cf. Middle Dutch and Dutch kaf, German Kaff), from PIE root *gep(h)- "jaw, mouth" (see jowl (n.1)). Used figuratively for "worthless material" from late 14c.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper