Definition of faff in English:



[no object]British
  • Spend time in ineffectual activity.

    ‘we can't faff around forever’
    • ‘My family was faffing about, having tea in the Kynance Cove tea-shop.’
    • ‘I've had no time for sitting around faffing, though.’
    • ‘I spend a huge amount of time faffing around because I'm a night person, and it has to stop…’
    • ‘She stands on the platform faffing about for change.’
    • ‘I've lost all that time, faffing about, so what's the point?’
    • ‘I have been faffing around on such a superficial level for so long, maybe it's about time I did something about that.’
    • ‘But then Phil and Rosie are obviously not as talented as me at faffing around.’
    • ‘I have spent all evening faffing with templates to produce my very own photo blog (am hoping it will be an incentive to take the camera out more often).’
    • ‘After faffing about at the plant fair and parting with some cash it was to the dance studios for my daughter's dance class.’
    • ‘I was worried I was going to spend the day faffing and not get anything done, but I picked up the phone and with some trepidation phoned my first choice farm.’
    • ‘I'd rather plough my energies into content and new projects than faffing with colour and layout.’
    • ‘Or, I choose to spend my time faffing around on the computer, or cooking.’
    • ‘Now I'm faffing around for the afternoon until Amy gets back from Blenheim.’
    • ‘When doors opened at 10 am, Neil and designer Nick Harvey were still frantically faffing about trying to get their overhead sign to stay in place.’
    • ‘And I haven't got time or energy for faffing and fiddling for a few days, anyway’
    • ‘I've been faffing on with this for five years now.’
    • ‘I was faffing around with laundry in the airing cupboard, and heard a small querulous voice say ‘Mummy?’’
    • ‘If these are the terms and conditions, then they may as well look elsewhere and stop faffing around pushing for a site that we all want to safeguard from development.’
    • ‘Make-up palettes are a girl-on-the-go's best friend - no more faffing with a full to the brim make-up bag.’
    • ‘They are intended for self-building, which means you choose your components, then waste a weekend faffing.’


  • A great deal of ineffectual activity.

    ‘there was the usual faff of getting back to the plane’
    • ‘For once there wasn't even the usual amount of unending faff and delay that plagues the start of club trips.’
    • ‘The combination of tying new cows-tails, and having a squashed thumb led to another hour's faff.’
    • ‘This was a bit of a faff, as he was in a fairly narrow passage, with a very uneven floor.’
    • ‘To non-compost enthusiasts, all this must seem like a terrible faff.’
    • ‘Puff pastry - frozen is less of a faff, but don't forget to defrost.’
    • ‘It was a bit of a faff putting the tents up but we managed it.’
    • ‘Bit of a faff, and not very flexible, but it kind of worked.’
    • ‘It's not particularly complicated to enforce rigid hygiene technique; it's a big faff around, and it's a lot of work, but you've got to do it.’
    • ‘It just has to be not too much of a faff to get from or to.’


Late 18th century (originally dialect in the sense ‘blow in puffs’, describing the wind): imitative. The current sense may have been influenced by dialect faffle ‘stammer, stutter’, later ‘flap in the wind’, which came to mean ‘fuss, dither’ at about the same time as faff (late 19th century).