Sign up ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I was looking into the word chuffed this morning, and came across this:-

chuffed 1 /tʃʌft/
adjective British Informal.
delighted; pleased; satisfied.

Origin: 1855–60; see chuff2 , -ed2

chuffed2 /tʃʌft/
adjective British Informal.
annoyed; displeased; disgruntled.

Origin: 1825–35; compare dial. (mainly S England) chuff, choff ill-tempered, surly, probably to be identified with chuff(1)

This is worse than inflammable.

I have lived in the south-east, the south-west and the north-east of England and have only ever come across the first meaning. Is the second meaning still in use anywhere? Does anyone know how this duplicate usage came into existance?

share|improve this question
Lived in/been around people from Yorkshire, Durham, London, Nottingham, Cornwall, Wales and Glasgow. Never heard of chuffed meaning anything other than "happy". I'm delighted to learn the second meaning, though. This is why English is awesome. –  David John Welsh May 17 '13 at 11:33
@BrianHooper I agree. Both Chambers ( and ODO ( both give very pleased as the only meaning. –  TrevorD May 17 '13 at 11:36
That is dope :) –  mplungjan May 17 '13 at 11:41
I've always associated 'chuffed' with birds, when they are all puffed up in the winter, i suppose they could be pleased or displeased depending on which way you look at it. Saw a fat Robin once, i guess it was 'well chuffed' –  Conneyfogle May 17 '13 at 12:22
@mplungjan: It's well sick. –  Matt May 17 '13 at 13:15

5 Answers 5

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I've only ever heard the pleased meaning.

The OED says chuffed is originally military slang, and has both meanings. The "pleased, satisfied" meaning has four quotations from 1957 to 1967, whilst the "displeased, disgruntled" meaning has two, in 1960 and 1964. One is from David Storey's This Sporting Life and the other is from Celia Dale's Other people.

Norman W. Schur's British English A to Zed (2001) says:

Slang. This curious bit of antiquated army slang has two diametrically opposite meanings, depending on the context. One can say chuffed pink (tickled pink) to mean 'pleased' or dead chuffed to mean 'displeased.' In the second sense,chuffed is synonymous with choked.

The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (2008) says:

chuffed adjective 1 pleased, delighted; flattered; very excited. Originally northern English dialect meaning ‘proud’, adopted by military, then wider society. The current, more generalised usage was possibly spread by jazz fans. Embellishments include ‘chuffed to fuck’; ‘chuffed to arseholes’; ‘chuffed to buggery’; ‘chuffed pink’; ‘chuffed to little mint-balls’; ‘bo-chuffed’; ‘chuffed to little naffy breaks’; ‘chuffed to naffy breaks’ and ‘chuffed to oil-bumps’. Often qualified by intensifiers DEAD, REAL, WELL, etc UK, 1957. 2 displeased, disgruntled. Qualifiers and context may be required to distinguish usage from the previous sense as ‘pleased’. Variants include ‘dischuffed’ and ‘dead chuffed’ UK, 1961

share|improve this answer
So not only can chuffed mean two diametrically opposite things, even dead chuffed can! Naffy breaks are a new concept to me, too (apparently they’re a military thing), but I’m going to start using ‘chuffed to naffy breaks’ just because it’s brilliant. ‘Chuffed to arseholes’ sounds rather more like a fairly difficult sexual practice, though. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 27 at 19:14

I think the information posted in the question pretty much answers the question. Originating some time between 1825–35, the meaning of "chuffed" was negative. Not long after that time, around 1855–60, the meaning changed to a positive. Unless you were around over 158 years ago, you would probably not have a recollection of the first meaning.

All being told, the original meaning did not hang around for long in the grand scheme of things and is more or less redundant (apart from potentially appearing in a small amount of literature between 1825-35).

On a different note - I often hear the use of the word "chuffed" to mean "farted" as in "have you just chuffed?". Obviously this is never directed at myself.

share|improve this answer
This is a reasonable hypothesis, but it'd make for a better answer if you could offer additional evidence. Dates in etymologies aren't always precise. This might help to track down additional information: –  Bradd Szonye May 21 '13 at 23:49
Interestingly, some further research uncovered completely different results - Oxford Dictionary cites the common positive meaning from around the 1950s and the negative meaning from the 1940s and it relates to a persons bottom or anus... you have to be careful where you poke around for research I guess. –  Sam May 21 '13 at 23:54
+1 for the comment, but it really should be placed into the answer… –  Paul Wagland May 22 '13 at 19:12

In Canada we use this word as a negative: "I was really chuffed that I didn't get that raise."

I only heard it as a positive when I watched British TV. Even though my mother came to Canada from Britain when she was 14, and I grew up with my British grandmother — never heard it as a positive from them. Odd, that one.

share|improve this answer

I am very happy to have stumbled on this discussion. I do not agree that the negative usage is obsolete. I have heard both usages -- in London -- from the same person (someone who grew up in middle class circumstances in southern England) -- and have sometimes wondered if I was misunderstanding the meaning. I would agree that the more common usage is currently the positive one. Since the feeling being described is one of heightened emotion, perhaps there is an original sense akin to "excited", which can be a pleasant or unpleasant experience, depending on circumstances.

share|improve this answer

In my observation, the negative meaning is likely the older version as evidenced by usage in older movies and TV shows and regionally dependent. In the British sitcom "last of the summer wine", set in the yorkshire area, the character Compo complains how his wife left him for another man by exclaiming "she ran off with a chuffing Pole".

By contrast, 'chuffed' when used by cast members of the Brittish car restoration show "Wheeler Dealers" is expressing delight with the results of their project as they are obviously pleased. Newer show and different region.

So, like other words that have dual meanings or usages, "chuff, chuffed and chuffing" will be regionally and contextually sensitive.

share|improve this answer
+1 but Compo is surely just mincing fucking in to chuffing. –  Frank Mar 27 at 18:30
Two things:1) my apolgies for not capitalizing Yorkshire. 2) Franks comment is indicative of the vagueness of "chuff". It is one of those "fill-in-the-blank" words as befits the usage or context. Doug. –  Doug Mar 27 at 19:32
Doug, You should be able to edit you answer (for the Yorkshire gaff) by clicking the edit text below your answer or here Cheers. –  Frank Mar 28 at 5:04

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.