• synonyms

gaff sail

noun Nautical.
  1. See under gaff1(def 3).
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Also called gaff-head·ed sail [gaf-hed-id] /ˈgæfˌhɛd ɪd/.


  1. an iron hook with a handle for landing large fish.
  2. the spur on a climbing iron, especially as used by telephone linemen.
  3. Nautical. a spar rising aft from a mast to support the head of a quadrilateral fore-and-aft sail (gaff sail).
  4. a metal spur for a gamecock.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to hook or land (a fish) with a gaff.
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Origin of gaff1

1275–1325; Middle English < Middle French gaffe, gaff < Provençal gaf hook, gaff, noun derivative of gafar to seize (compare Medieval Latin gaffare), probably < Germanic (Visigothic) *gaff-, perhaps derivative from base of Gothic giban give
Can be confusedgaff gaffe
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for gaff sail

Historical Examples

  • The canvas they had found was cut into a gaff-sail, while the other spar served as the gaff.

    True Blue

    W.H.G. Kingston

  • It is in form like a gaff-sail, but depends entirely on the rope of the luff for its stability.

    The Sailor's Word-Book

    William Henry Smyth

British Dictionary definitions for gaff sail


  1. angling a stiff pole with a stout prong or hook attached for landing large fish
  2. nautical a boom hoisted aft of a mast to support a gaffsail
  3. a metal spur fixed to the leg of a gamecock
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verb (tr)
  1. angling to hook or land (a fish) with a gaff
  2. slang to cheat; hoax
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Word Origin

C13: from French gaffe, from Provençal gaf boathook


  1. slang foolish talk; nonsense
  2. blow the gaff British slang to divulge a secret
  3. stand the gaff slang, mainly US and Canadian to endure ridicule, difficulties, etc
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Word Origin

C19: of unknown origin


noun British slang, archaic
  1. a person's home, esp a flat
  2. Also called: penny-gaff a cheap or low-class place of entertainment, esp a cheap theatre or music hall in Victorian England
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Word Origin

C18: of unknown origin
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 gaff sail



"iron hook," c.1300, gaffe, from Old French gaffe "boat hook" (see gaffe). Specifically of the hook on a fishing spear from 1650s.

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"loud, rude talk," 1825, from Scottish dialect, perhaps a survival of Old English gafspræc "blasphemous or ribald speech," or from gaff (n.1), and cf. gaffe.

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"cheap music hall or theater; place of amusement for the lowest classes," 1850s, British slang, earlier "a fair" (1753), of unknown origin.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with gaff sail


see stand the gaff.

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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.