Printable Version
Pronunciation: chæf Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. To tease in a playful, good-humored way. 2. To banter, chat, in a playful, witty, good-humored way.

Notes: This word is an outlier on the very periphery of the English vocabulary in the US. It comes with a personal noun, chaffer; otherwise, the present participle, chaffing, is used for the adjective and action noun.

In Play: The first sense of today's word is the one that we hear and read most often: "Phil Anders took Maude Lynn Dresser out to dinner and she chaffed him throughout the meal about his clothes." The second sense of this word is used a bit less often: "George was an excellent salesman; he could chaff with the best of them."

Word History: Today's Good Word was chauf-en in Middle English, a spelling that gives us a hint of its origin: Old French chaufer "to warm by friction from rubbing". The Middle English word went on to become both chafe and the verb chaff. To get to chaufer, French overhauled Vulgar Latin calefare, a modification of Classic Latin calefacere "to warm, heat up". This word was originally a compound verb consisting of cale(re) "to be warm" + facere "to make, do". Calere was made out of PIE k'el-/k'ol- "cold; warm", source also of German kalt, Dutch koud, Swedish kall, all meaning "cold", and Icelandic kalt and hlytt "warm". With metathesis we find Serbian and Croatian hladan, Russian kholodnyi, Czech chladný, Lithuanian šiltis "heat", and Latvian karsts "hot". Among the Celtic languages, we find Welsh clyd "warm, cozy" and claear "lukewarm", Irish and Scottish Gaelic cluth "cozy, snug", and Cornish klys "cozy". (Now a standing e-ovation to Chris Stewart for his 101st contribution to our efforts since 2005, a year after we set up shop at alphaDictionary.)

Dr. Goodword,

P.S. - Register for the Daily Good Word E-Mail! - You can get our daily Good Word sent directly to you via e-mail in either HTML or Text format. Go to our Registration Page to sign up today!