Main definitions of bluff in English

: bluff1bluff2bluff3

bluff1

noun

  • An attempt to deceive someone into believing that one can or is going to do something.

    ‘the offer was denounced as a bluff’
    mass noun ‘his game of bluff’
    • ‘She glanced off the platform and then back at him, hoping that he would believe her bluff and cough up the money.’
    • ‘The odds hadn't been in my favor as it seemed he was leading me on a series of bluffs and double-bluffs, but always keeping pace and never breaking the stare.’
    • ‘I was beginning to believe it had all been a big bluff…’
    • ‘Trouble is, the first bluff is a life strategy while the second bluff is a political convenience.’
    • ‘It should be obvious why I badly want to believe that this is a bluff or a ruse.’
    • ‘The internet rumour mill has been working overtime, a game of bluff and counter-bluff spreading like a computer virus.’
    • ‘But apart from bluffs, tricks, and mayhem, the coming year may be a boon for babies.’
    • ‘There are probably those who still believe that this is a bluff.’
    • ‘Still, for a man who has a history of bluffs and mind games not just in the Tour but throughout the season, no-one will immediately rule him out here, in a race he has won two times before.’
    • ‘They had informed him that my attempt was no bluff - it was not done to get attention - a half attempt.’
    • ‘With limited resources and the inability to properly police such a vast area, the colonial authorities were playing little more than a game of bluff.’
    • ‘His denunciation of my research is an audacious bluff, believable only by those who have never opened my book.’
    • ‘The psychology of poker involves bluffing and detecting the bluffs of others.’
    • ‘A last-minute offer may be a ruse or a bluff but I'm the guy who ought to make that call.’
    • ‘We've seen lots of boasts and threats and feints and bluffs, but generally speaking organizations like this only resort to threats when they're not actually capable of real operations.’
    • ‘They think the government is playing a game of bluff.’
    • ‘This over-reaction is of course a bluff, an attempt to silence opposition, almost suggesting that these practices, reprehensible to me, are necessary for secular democracy.’
    • ‘It is hard to read the auguries, so complex is this interplay of deception, self-deception, bluster and bluff.’
    • ‘How many games of double-and-triple bluff are going on here?’
    • ‘It would be comforting to think he is playing no more than a game of bluff with the whisky companies, privately sharing their scepticism about strip stamps while forcing them to come up with a convincing alternative.’
    deception, subterfuge, pretence, sham, fake, show, deceit, false show, idle boast, feint, delusion, hoax, fraud, masquerade, charade
    View synonyms

verb

[no object]
  • 1Try to deceive someone as to one's abilities or intentions.

    ‘he's been bluffing all along’
    ‘they bluffed their way past the sentries’
    with object ‘the object is to bluff your opponent into submission’
    • ‘Both their livelihoods depend on the ability to bluff and sniff out fraud.’
    • ‘Thankfully, I never discovered whether this gang of kids were bluffing or not because a strapping man who had been drinking in the pub opposite sauntered on to the street.’
    • ‘There was a magic revealed program on TV this weekend and I am sure that the magicians were bluffing with their revelations.’
    • ‘We also take more risks than men give us credit for which means it can be very hard to tell when a woman is bluffing.’
    • ‘However, it is entirely legal to try to mislead the opponents about your intentions by bluffing in the bidding, naming a contract completely different from the one you really want to play.’
    • ‘He could have been bluffing, but we couldn't take that chance.’
    • ‘I'm fairly sure she knew I was bluffing with a large part of my ‘history lesson’.’
    • ‘By bluffing and faking, you have to somehow provoke and deceive this system of defense.’
    • ‘Furthermore, when I asked in the staffroom if the little horror was bluffing, I was told that in all likelihood, he was telling the truth.’
    • ‘But by bluffing and showing confidence and strength simply as a base attitude, I prevented anything getting out of hand.’
    • ‘And they know you aren't bluffing because, well, they'd do the same, and they know you've backed yourself into a corner.’
    • ‘I could get into their heads, so I knew if they were bluffing.’
    • ‘Right up to the end the dictator who fooled the world was bluffing - even to his closest aides.’
    • ‘‘I might just google ‘my wife doesn't understand me’ and see what I get,’ I threatened, but I was bluffing.’
    • ‘Although my teacher certainly wasn't bluffing, I suspect we were both looking for the same thing: a cheap fix of escapism.’
    • ‘She'd read each one of them as they appeared - and she wasn't bluffing - she really knew them and thought about them a lot.’
    • ‘What private assurance did he have from the French that they were bluffing about a veto, or, if he had none, who advised him that they were probably bluffing?’
    • ‘Now it seems he may have been bluffing all along, thus the efficacy of such a coalition seems doubtful.’
    • ‘And the truth is this: I was bluffing - I didn't know Rob's last name either.’
    • ‘That history, combined with his decision last week to give Congress more time to consider the transaction, has led some in Congress to conclude that he is bluffing and will give lots of ground.’
    pretend, sham, fake, feign, put on an act, put it on, lie, hoax, pose, posture, masquerade, dissemble, dissimulate
    deceive, delude, mislead, trick, fool, hoodwink, dupe, hoax, take in, beguile, humbug, bamboozle, gull, cheat
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1bluff it out Survive a difficult situation by maintaining a pretence.
      ‘there's no point in trying to bluff it out’
      • ‘When challenged he tried to bluff it out by claiming it was his friend's house but a neighbour knew the occupants.’
      • ‘But the teenager bluffed it out by claiming his date of birth was wrong on his call-up papers, which had been prepared ahead of his birthday.’
      • ‘Aware of his approach, we could only hold our breath and bluff it out.’
      • ‘She had lied like a child and when interviewed, she persisted and bluffed it out even when told the professor had denied knowing her.’
      • ‘‘There is no doubt that if he continues to live in west Belfast, life could be made very unpleasant for him, but given his past and his knowledge of internal security methods, he probably thinks he can bluff it out,’ the source said.’
      • ‘Putting on an innocent look, and intent on bluffing it out he said, ‘What makes you say that?’’
      • ‘The ogre was going to play dead and bluff it out, but then he saw a female pointing toward him and the rest glancing his way.’

Phrases

  • call someone's bluff

    • 1Challenge someone to carry out a stated intention, in the expectation of being able to expose it as a pretence.

      ‘she was tempted to call his bluff, hardly believing he'd carry out his threat’
      • ‘Two idealistic activists, however, called his bluff.’
      • ‘In effect, where polluters had previously argued that emission control was too expensive, the new system called their bluff.’
      • ‘Or, what if we called their bluff and didn't give them the money and see what happens then?’
      • ‘Transfolk, increasingly numerous, loud and proud, are calling our bluff.’
      • ‘But now that we know people are doing this, it's time for us to start calling their bluff: You aren't really talking to anyone are you?’
      • ‘Just as the sailor will bring lively tales of adventure, he may also be able to ferret out falsehoods and call deceivers' bluffs, because he has gained wisdom from life's challenges and insights into human nature.’
      • ‘I called his bluff, expecting him to laugh - to turn around and leave.’
      • ‘I think furiously, she's calling my bluff, I'll push even further’
      • ‘When anybody calls their bluff and punctures this self-delusion, they can only cope by insulting and vilifying their critics.’
      • ‘Over the past few weeks, the president has called their bluff.’
      • ‘The bluff was called and it was game back on as players hastily deserted favourite watering holes.’
      • ‘And should it respond by accommodating its demands, or by calling its bluff?’
      • ‘Right or wrong, some of the guards called their bluff, and we can learn from that.’
      • ‘In a very real sense, I think the big commercial publishers now are clearly calling our bluff.’
      • ‘His premise is that Democrats are ‘aghast’ at the president's ‘new’ Social Security proposal because he ‘has finally called their bluff.’’
      • ‘If you gave because you liked the site, or even just wanted to humiliate me by calling my bluff, you're free to leave it - but believe me, I would not fault you in the slightest for asking for your money back.’
      • ‘And it's about time someone from the conservative side of politics called their bluff.’
      • ‘For these emotions to work, they must have a kind of inevitability built into them, such that, when someone calls your bluff, you cannot avoid carrying out your promise or threat.’
      • ‘In this case, the concerned students have called the publication 's bluff, pointing out that consideration for the larger community was not taken when the ‘back door’ article was produced.’
      • ‘He had called her bluff, and she had met his challenge head on.’
    • 2(in poker or brag) make an opponent show their hand in order to reveal that its value is weaker than their heavy betting suggests.

      • ‘One company has called the other's bluff and laid down on the table four Kings - four of a kind.’
      • ‘When not daring an opponent to call his bluff, he seduced them.’
      • ‘I'm just a little disappointed that it went this far to play poker and to have someone call your bluff.’
      • ‘There were two reasons why I called his bluff.’
      • ‘I called his bluff correctly though and I ended up getting all the chips back off him and knocking him out so was all good in the end.’

Origin

Late 17th century (originally in the sense ‘blindfold, hoodwink’): from Dutch bluffen ‘brag’, or bluf ‘bragging’. The current sense (originally US, mid 19th century) originally referred to bluffing in the game of poker.

Pronunciation

bluff

/blʌf/

Main definitions of bluff in English

: bluff1bluff2bluff3

bluff2

adjective

  • Direct in speech or behaviour but in a good-natured way.

    ‘a big, bluff, hearty man’
    • ‘During trips home we'd have these bluff conversations about money and prospects, pensions and security.’
    • ‘Matching his rugged features he cultivated a bluff manner, parading humble origins and ridiculing a man who corrected his accent.’
    • ‘This is a play about transformations: a boy into a man, a man into a king, enmity to possible love (the wooing scene between the bluff Henry and the enchanting French princess is a delight).’
    • ‘His amiable personality and bluff manner had an impact and he came across as the straightforward soldier, doing his best for the country.’
    • ‘Taking all of this into account, though there seemed to be an underlying sadness, I got the distinct impression that his bluff attitude was covering up something.’
    • ‘He flattered his clients on their excellent judgment in buying from him rather than his competitors, but he could be bluff and straightforward when necessary.’
    • ‘Blunt Limerick man and bluff Tipperary man did not enjoy the most harmonious of relationships.’
    • ‘They allow her to reflect on what lies behind his macho, bluff exterior and why she reacts to it in the way that she does, in a supportive, non judgmental setting.’
    • ‘The man, beneath his coarse and bluff exterior, is haunted by a sense of his own inadequacy.’
    • ‘Intentionally rough, the bluff critic reacts here as well to the spectacular reception of the poem.’
    • ‘One may counter that his music can take the bluff and hearty approach.’
    • ‘The bluff sea-captains and commercial adventurers who founded the Australian colonies had no special gift for symbolism, but they knew what was expected of them.’
    • ‘He had a bluff and ebullient, although sympathetic manner, and was hospitable, always the life and soul of the party frequently one he had given himself.’
    • ‘A tough, bluff man, he had no desire to relive ancient trouble.’
    • ‘Megan looked over and up at a tall and bluff boy she's seen at school before standing in the doorway of what seemed to be his compartment.’
    • ‘There is nothing of the bluff and blustery manner, or the mean looks and imperious nature with which he had brought to life several characters in quick succession, the previous day.’
    • ‘Some thought the bluff carrier commander was borderline nuts.’
    • ‘He was a bluff, domineering character who exuded confidence though politically he often showed signs of naivety.’
    • ‘Beneath his bluff exterior, he is a narrow-minded reactionary with merely some financial success.’
    • ‘HE'S the gruff, bluff detective who's as likely to bawl you out for making bad tea as to snap the handcuffs on a villain - so would you let him loose in a fighter jet?’
    plain-spoken, straightforward, blunt, direct, no-nonsense, frank, open, candid, outspoken, to the point, forthright, unequivocal, downright, hearty
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Origin

Early 18th century (in the sense ‘surly, abrupt in manner’): figurative use of bluff. The current positive connotation dates from the early 19th century.

Pronunciation

bluff

/blʌf/

Main definitions of bluff in English

: bluff1bluff2bluff3

bluff3

noun

  • 1A steep cliff, bank, or promontory.

    • ‘The bluff was wooded, and we could see but little.’
    • ‘Here, gnarled sandstone bluffs drop straight into the sea.’
    • ‘In fact there are river banks and bluffs, coulees and crowns, sandhills and blue hills and unnamed prominences, ravines.’
    • ‘On the steep bluffs north of downtown Seattle grows an impressive array of what is arguably the Pacific Northwest's most beautiful arboreal treasures: the Pacific madrone.’
    • ‘The slopes between the crags and rocky bluffs were still snowbound and while the snow was soft enough to kick steps into, the ground below was still iron-hard which is usually the result of several weeks of sub-zero temperatures.’
    • ‘He hoped to strike the Indian camp simultaneously from the north and south - but had not counted on the maze of bluffs and ravines he would have to contend with to get there.’
    • ‘At the edge of the bluffs, visitors get beautiful views of the ocean and headlands.’
    • ‘The Marin Headlands, the dramatic bluffs and canyons just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, are a perspective-altering place.’
    • ‘Below stretched Carnmore, a water-filled trench hemmed in by brooding peaks and startling rock bluffs, mile upon mile of rugged isolation.’
    • ‘Al Deir is encircled by the rounded bluffs and ridges of a range which plunges 1500 metres to Wadi Araba, a valley linking the Dead Sea to the Red Sea.’
    • ‘To help protect homes from falling into the ocean, some oceanside towns have reinforced the bluffs and cliffs with sea walls, but sea walls deprive beaches of the sand that normally erodes from the bluffs and cliffs.’
    • ‘The East Coast consists of several narrow bands of lowlands that lead to an intermediate zone of steep bluffs and ravines abutting a 1650 foot escarpment which provides access to the central highlands.’
    • ‘These river bank bluffs are generally lined with woody vegetation that support a flora which is sporadically seasonally flooded, and is more open and prone to disturbance than other wooded inland sites.’
    • ‘Planning the campaign involved myriad geographical factors, including the Mississippi Delta region, streams of various navigabilities, steep banks, and bluffs northeast of the city.’
    • ‘From the shadows came the roar of the waves as the beach swelled beneath the cliff bluffs.’
    • ‘It is characterized by a permanent stream meandering through steep sandstone bluffs.’
    • ‘We are drifting in the surge line between rock pinnacles and the bluff and I cannot believe my eyes.’
    • ‘At this point, the steep bluffs lie approximately 30 m above the floodplain below.’
    • ‘Deep ravines cut the northern shoreline off from inland settlements and transportation routes, and steep shale bluffs made it difficult to land goods on the shore.’
    • ‘During the breeding season, Prairie Falcons inhabit dry, open areas with cliffs and bluffs for nesting.’
    cliff, ridge, promontory, headland, crag, bank, slope, height, peak, escarpment, scarp, precipice, rock face, overhang
    View synonyms
  • 2Canadian A grove or clump of trees.

    • ‘Outcrops of the Prairie Grove often form bluffs and exhibit low - angle, trough cross-bedding.’
    • ‘It is comprised of bush, rock, two bluffs, and a swamp.’
    • ‘A couple of miles north and south the trees thicken up and the farms all have bluffs of trees on them so it is quite scenic.’
    • ‘The sun is just starting to illuminate the horizon of a cloud-laden sky and the dragons are behind a bluff of trees right on the city limits.’
    • ‘Today, all that remains is a bluff of trees in the middle of a cultivated field.’

adjective

  • (of a cliff or a ship's bows) having a vertical or steep broad front.

    • ‘The stark rock, fading lower green fields, and deep blue of the ocean comes as a shock after the flat lush landscape and bluff coastline that characterises the rest of the county.’
    • ‘Here a narrow bluff trail crosses open country known today as the East West Ranch, affording views back toward pine forests embracing the town.’
    • ‘Little or no mound fill was added to the westernmost edge of the mound with the contours of this area remaining essentially the same as the natural bluff ridge.’
    • ‘This attached vortex force is the source of pressure drag on a bluff body, such as a sphere or a flat plate normal to a steady flow.’
    • ‘Half the barges were away, already sweeping downriver with thin, white mustaches under their bluff bows, when a commotion awoke ashore.’

Origin

Early 17th century (as an adjective, originally in nautical use): of unknown origin.

Pronunciation

bluff

/blʌf/