Definition of luff in English:

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Pronunciation: /lʌf/


The edge of a fore-and-aft sail next to the mast or stay: if your luff is flapping, pull the sail towards you to fill it with wind
More example sentences
  • Nonchalant references to booms and jibs and kites and cleats and luffs and lees and heeling and tacking and pointing high can leave the nautical ingénue helpless in a riptide of argot.


[with object]
1Steer (a yacht) nearer the wind: I came aft and luffed her for the open sea
More example sentences
  • If it's a sailboat, luff it up into the wind and drift to a complete stop, then allow it to sail backwards - a boat-length is long enough to appease the spirits.
1.1Obstruct (an opponent in yacht racing) by sailing closer to the wind: he can luff you, but must leave you room to get clear
More example sentences
  • It was in full sail close to us, luffing a little and standing across our course, and so close we had to strike sail to avoid running foul of her, while they too turned hard to let us pass.


Middle English: from Old French lof, probably from Low German.

  • aloof from mid 16th century:

    Aloof was originally a nautical term for an order to steer a ship as close as possible towards the wind. It literally means ‘to windward’, loof (or luff (Late Middle English)) being an old term meaning ‘windward direction’. The idea was that keeping the bow of the ship close to the wind kept it clear of the shore.

Words that rhyme with luff

bluff, buff, chough, chuff, cuff, duff, enough, fluff, gruff, guff, huff, puff, rough, ruff, scruff, scuff, slough, snuff, stuff, Tough, tuff

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: luff

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