[ kaf-er, kah-fer ]
/ ˈkæf ər, ˈkɑ fər /

noun, plural Kaf·firs, (especially collectively) Kaf·fir.

Disparaging and Offensive. (in South Africa) a contemptuous term used to refer to a black person: originally used of the Xhosa people only.
(lowercase) kafir(def 4).
(lowercase) Islam. kafir(def 2).

Origin of Kaffir

First recorded in 1780–90, Kaffir is from the Arabic word kāfir unbeliever, infidel, skeptic


non-Kaf·fir, noun

usage note for Kaffir

In reference to a black person, Kaffir was a usually neutral term in earlier times, but its degree of offensiveness has increased markedly.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

Examples from the Web for kaffir

  • The pied birds called 'Kaffir queens' fluttered across the path.

    Prester John|John Buchan
  • The great stockbroker of the 'Kaffir Circus' entered with a simple unassuming air.

British Dictionary definitions for kaffir



/ (ˈkæfə) /

noun plural -firs or -fir

taboo (in southern Africa) any Black African
offensive (among Muslims) a non-Muslim or infidel

Word Origin for Kaffir

C19: from Arabic kāfir infidel, from kafara to deny, refuse to believe

usage for Kaffir

In South Africa the use of this word is nowadays completely taboo, and is indeed actionable in the courts. It is also advisable not to use the word in any of the compounds to which it gave rise
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