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what's the derivation of the term buff for a physically well built, attractive male? Is it simply it simply shorthand, since buff means polished and therefore a man's torso that resembles a marble statue (think Michelangelo or the ancient Greeks) resembles this fantastical image of a man's torso? Is it now becoming popular to describe women also?

  • I've heard the term applied to women, also. The wife of a friend of mine is a competitive bodybuilder, and I have heard her described as "buff". – Cyberherbalist Nov 16 '13 at 0:12
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According to freeonlinedictionary.com

a relevant definition of buff is:

buff 1 (bf) n. 1. A soft, thick, undyed leather made chiefly from the skins of buffalo, elk, or oxen. 2. A military uniform coat made of such leather.

Here are two possible explanations of buff referring to a handsome man:

1.The well formed body of a man could be an allusion to the strength and masculinity that these animals represent.

2.A buff-coat was a light leather tunic which was worn by English soldiers up until the 17th century. The original meaning of 'in the buff' was simply to be wearing such a coat.

Since soldiers are considered well built, the allusion could have been to a soldier and later gone on to apply to any well built man.

These are just educated guesses by me.

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According to the dictionary, one meaning of buff is physically attractive or muscular. It did not say that it is particular only to male. That usage of buff is slang.

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I think you are correct with your surmise:

From Online Etymology Dictionary - Buff (noun), derives from the verb buff, meaning to polish,or make attractive.

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