Word of the Day – Oaf

Word of the Day : June 29, 2021


noun OHF


1 : a stupid person : boob

2 : a big clumsy slow-witted person

Did you know?

A long time ago in England, it was believed that elves sometimes secretly exchanged their babies for human babies. This was used as an explanation when parents found themselves with a baby that failed to meet expectations or desires: these parents believed that their real baby had been stolen by elves and that a changeling had been left in its place. The label for such a child was auf, or alfe, (meaning “an elf’s or a goblin’s child”), which was later altered to form our present-day oaf. Although the linguistic history is not entirely clear, auf is likely from the Middle English alvenelven, meaning “elf” or “fairy.” Today, the word oaf is no longer associated with babies and is instead applied to anyone who appears especially unintelligent or graceless.


“And then Robin … explained to her courteously how the law made it imperative on him to bring the letter to the very house that was indicated, let the owner of the letter be where she might; and he laid down the law very satisfactorily with sundry long-worded quotations. Not to much effect, however, for the housemaid called him an oaf….” — Anthony Trollope, Framley Parsonage, 1861

“We meet Ian, a shy young orphan elf whose dad died just before he was born. And we meet Ian’s older brother Barley, a loud bumbling oaf of an elf who Ian tolerates.” — Brent Northup, Helenair.com (Helena, Montana), 19 Mar. 2020