the chief electrician on a motion-picture or television production.
Informal. an old man.
British. a foreman or overseer, especially the boss of a group of physical laborers.
Glassmaking. a master glassblower responsible for shaping glassware.

Origin of gaffer

First recorded in 1565–75; contraction of godfather Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for gaffer

Historical Examples of gaffer

  • "If your cask is leer, I warrant your purse is full, gaffer," shouted Hordle John.

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • What did “she” mean by talking of “Gaffer,” in that strange way?

    Clare Avery

    Emily Sarah Holt

  • There were deeper currents than any he had seen at Gaffer Quelch's school.

    The Hero of Garside School

    J. Harwood Panting

  • That's the only thing you seem to have brought with you from Gaffer Quelch's.

    The Hero of Garside School

    J. Harwood Panting

  • My gaffer, Ole, had done me the honour in the forenoon of losing an 18-lb.

British Dictionary definitions for gaffer



an old man, esp one living in the country: often used affectionately or patronizinglyCompare gammer
informal, mainly British a boss, foreman, or owner of a factory, mine, etc
the senior electrician on a television or film set

Word Origin for gaffer

C16: alteration of godfather
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 gaffer

1580s, "elderly rustic," apparently a contraction of godfather (cf. gammer); originally "old man," it was applied from 1841 to foremen and supervisors, which sense carried over 20c. to "electrician in charge of lighting on a film set."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper