Saturday, July 09, 2011


Dona asked about the word cuff, as in, “If you kids don’t knock it off, I’m going to come out there and cuff your ears.” It means to beat, strike, or buffet. The origin is labeled uncertain, but the OED reminds us of the existence of kuffen, a German criminal slang word meaning to thrash.

The other verb use is an abbreviation of handcuff, to manacle one by the wrists. The cuff involved there came from a word meaning a mitten or glove, particularly the section that covers the wrist.

Cuff also means a blow with the fist or an open hand; it shows up in fisticuff. Other unconnected noun uses include a contemptuous slang term meaning a miserly old man, a Scottish variant of scruff (the fleshy part of the back of the neck), and an abbreviation for Cuffee, a personal name.

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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