Bookshelp header image for page World Wide Words logo


Q From James R Cunningham: A friend said ‘don’t give me any of your guff’ and it made me curious as to the origin of guff. Any clue?

A The word guff was once used in standard English and in Scots to mean a puff or a whiff of a bad smell. It may be linked through Old Norse to the Norwegian gufs, a puff of wind. But either way it’s basically imitative and doesn’t seem to be connected to gust, though that, too, has an Old Norse origin. So talk that was just idle chatter or nonsense was rudely said to be just a puff of wind (or perhaps a bad smell).

Share this page
Facebook Twitter StumbleUpon Google+ Email

Search World Wide Words

Support World Wide Words!

Donate via PayPal. Select your currency from the list and click Donate.

Buy from Amazon and get me a small commission at no cost to you. Select your preferred site and click Go!


Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 2 Sep. 2000

Advice on copyright

The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL:
Last modified: 2 September 2000.