Word of the Week

I really like the sound and meaning of this week’s word:

quiff: n.2 ‘A clever trick, ploy, or stratagem to achieve a desired end, esp. by unorthodox, irregular, or time-saving means; a dodge; a tip.’

Pronunciation: Brit. /kwɪf/, U.S. /kwɪf/
Forms: 18– quiff, 19– queef Sc., 19– quift Eng. regional (Lincs.), 19– whiff Eng. regional (Herts.).
Etymology:Origin unknown.
regional and slang (esp. Naut.).
A clever trick, ploy, or stratagem to achieve a desired end, esp. by unorthodox, irregular, or time-saving means; a dodge; a tip.

  • 1881 Advertiser Notes & Queries I. 77/2 Quiff. What is the origin of this word, so often used in the sentence, ‘I’ll teach thee a quiff’, meaning something clever. It is often heard in Cheshire.
  • 1890 A. Barrère & C. G. Leland Dict. Slang II. 164 Quiff..(Tailors), a word used in expressing an idea that a satisfactory result may be obtained by other than strictly recognised rules or principles
  • 1925 E. Fraser & J. Gibbons Soldier & Sailor Words 223 Quiff, any specially ingenious smart, tricky, or novel or improvised way of doing anything. (Navy). In the Army used of any drill method peculiar to a battalion, and not usually done in others. Where the wording of the Drill Book is vague, units often read different meanings into the phraseology and invent their own ‘Quiffs’.
  • 1925 N. Lucas Autobiogr. Crook v. 72 I’ll give you one quiff, right now, because I like your face and your nerve. Never touch the dope, it’s hell—and worse than that.
  • 1928 Weekly Dispatch 13 May 10/4 Suddenly a faint grey blur on the horizon in the expected direction. The seaman blinks his eyes—an old quiff which prevents many a false alarm—and then makes his report.
  • 1933 J. Masefield Bird of Dawning 107 It was young Mr. Abbott worked that quiff on you, sir.
  • 1961 F. H. Burgess Dict. Sailing 166 Quiff, a trick or artifice that makes a job easier.
  • 1996 C. I. Macafee Conc. Ulster Dict. 266/2 Quiff, a trick; a dodge.

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