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noun, plural loaves [lohvz] /loʊvz/.
  1. a portion of bread or cake baked in a mass, usually oblong with a rounded top.
  2. a shaped or molded mass of food, as of sugar or chopped meat: a veal loaf.
  3. British.
    1. the rounded head of a cabbage, lettuce, etc.
    2. Slang: Older Use.head or brains: Use your loaf.

Origin of loaf

before 950; Middle English lo(o)f, Old English hlāf loaf, bread; cognate with German Laib, Old Norse hleifr, Gothic hlaifs


verb (used without object)
  1. to idle away time: He figured the mall was as good a place as any for loafing.
  2. to lounge or saunter lazily and idly: We loafed for hours along the water's edge.
verb (used with object)
  1. to pass idly (usually followed by away): to loaf one's life away.

Origin of loaf

1825–35, Americanism; back formation from loafer
Related formsun·loaf·ing, adjective

Synonyms for loaf

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2. loll, idle.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for loaf


noun plural loaves (ləʊvz)
  1. a shaped mass of baked bread
  2. any shaped or moulded mass of food, such as cooked meat
  3. slang the head; senseuse your loaf!

Word Origin for loaf

Old English hlāf; related to Old High German hleib bread, Old Norse hleifr, Latin libum cake


  1. (intr) to loiter or lounge around in an idle way
  2. (tr foll by away) to spend (time) idlyhe loafed away his life

Word Origin for loaf

C19: perhaps back formation from loafer
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 loaf

late 13c., from Old English hlaf "portion of bread baked in a mass of definite form," from Proto-Germanic *khlaibuz (cf. Old Norse hleifr, Swedish lev, Old Frisian hlef, Old High German hleib, German Laib, Gothic hlaifs "bread, loaf"), of uncertain origin, perhaps connected to Old English hlifian "to raise higher, tower," on the notion of the bread rising as it bakes, but it is unclear whether "loaf" or "bread" is the original sense. Finnish leipä, Old Church Slavonic chlebu, Lithuanian klepas probably are Germanic loan words. Meaning "chopped meat shaped like a bread loaf" is attested from 1787.


1835, American English, back-formation from loafer (1830), which often is regarded as a variant of land loper (1795), a partial loan-translation of German Landläufer "vagabond," from Land "land" + Läufer "runner," from laufen "to run" (see leap). But OED finds this connection "not very probable." Related: Loafed; loafing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with loaf


see half a loaf is better than none.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.