buff is a word used in gaming to mean increase in power of a game element. See Etymology of "Buff" and "Nerf" as used in video-game slang

It is widely used as an Internet slang in China to mean increase in power in general outside gaming. For example, the word is used to describe the role that political correctness plays in American job market. An America looking for a job in US is said to be doubly buffed when the person is colored and LGBTQ+, compared to not being neither or just one.

Is it so in English?

  • The adjective buff (US slang) has been around since at least 1982 with the definition Of a person (esp. a man) or their body: muscular, well-toned; physically attractive. I don't recognize your "increase in power in general" sense (a verb? a noun?), so I guess that means it's got little to no currency. Commented May 14 at 11:44

2 Answers 2


It's certainly not in wide use - it would be at the very least recognized as gamer slang, and both are pretty rare outside of gaming, or at least broadly tech context (with a possible exception of sports).

M-W recognizes nerf in general usage, but not buff, and Google's OED integration concurs:

Nerf /nəːf/ cause to be weak or ineffective.

"the constant zone running nerfed Michigan's pass rush"

(of a video game developer) reduce the power of (a character, weapon, etc.) in a new instalment or update of a video game. (...)

"ever since they nerfed the shield, the game just isn't as fun"

buff /bʌf/

(INFORMAL) make (an element in a role-playing or video game) more powerful.

"there are cards that'll buff your troops"

In my experience, it would still be pretty rare to refer to something not related to games as being "nerfed", and virtually unheard of to refer to it as being "buffed" - at least in terms of idiomatic English.


I've heard it used very rarely in common speech over the years. "Powerup" is far more frequently used.

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