Definition of buffer in English:



  • 1A person or thing that prevents incompatible or antagonistic people or things from coming into contact with or harming each other.

    ‘family and friends can provide a buffer against stress’
    • ‘I act as a buffer between him and the rest of the world when he needs it, and in return I get somebody who's a tremendous amount of fun when he feels good, and who is very good at understanding my own emotional foibles.’
    • ‘A provision was made to donate the remaining 15 acres to the council to be used as a buffer between developments.’
    • ‘Evidently the major job of a PA or Private Secretary of an important official is to act as a buffer between his master and the inconvenient hordes seeking favours or the querulous ones voicing complaints.’
    • ‘The cane farmers on the Sunshine Coast have provided not just a monetary benefit to the local economy: their crops have acted as a green buffer between settlements on the coast.’
    • ‘I believe that historical forces push us into conflict and without the law as a buffer between people, we would have a world of vendetta, a world of violence, a world of chaos.’
    • ‘While technology no doubt aids journalism's mission to inform society by removing obstacles of time and distance, it also provides an unwelcome buffer between the reporter and the public.’
    • ‘The area serves as a natural buffer between Brookhaven and Wallingford homes.’
    • ‘West African authorities spoke Saturday of the force deploying fairly quickly, with the aim of serving as a buffer between rebels and government.’
    • ‘Anthony, whose job it was to act as a buffer between editorial staff and management and who always looked as though he was on the verge of a heart attack, slammed the phone down, cursed and reached for a cigarette.’
    • ‘Thus, swearing evolved a useful purpose as a buffer between fury and the instinct to beat the living daylights out of each other.’
    • ‘The best thing about taking pictures is the camera acts as a buffer between you and everyone else.’
    • ‘But democracy is more than just an idea; it requires an intricate network of institutions; it needs a civil society to act as a buffer between the people and power.’
    • ‘Russia views Ukraine as a key part of its historic sphere of influence, a major transit route for its oil and gas exports and a buffer between the expanding EU and NATO.’
    • ‘Doubt is the buffer between blind faith and cold logic.’
    • ‘Outside, the railed front garden with side lawn is surprisingly generous in comparison with many homes so close to the city centre, and provides a generous buffer between the property and Botanic Road.’
    • ‘‘This increase will not act as a buffer between children and poverty and will certainly do nothing to help parents pay for childcare,’ she added.’
    • ‘A better approach is to build time buffers into the project.’
    • ‘These act as a buffer between businesses and the public bodies they are seeking information from.’
    • ‘It can be a shield too, surely, a buffer between the committing of an act and its execution.’
    • ‘Safety stock is used for the same reason as lead time - to provide a buffer of inventory to reduce the chance of a back order in the face of variability.’
    cushion, bulwark
    shield, screen, barrier, guard, safeguard, hedge, shock absorber, armour
    intermediary, middleman, go-between
    View synonyms
  • 2Chemistry
    A solution that resists changes in pH when acid or alkali is added to it. Buffers typically involve a weak acid or alkali together with one of its salts.

    • ‘A spectral change was observed upon addition of lipid vesicles to the buffer solution of the sensitizers.’
    • ‘Chemical buffers can affect the uptake of macronutrients by reducing the pH gradient through the plasma membrane.’
    • ‘Root tissue was pulverized in a mortar under liquid nitrogen and homogenized with buffers for the preparation of soluble extracts or plasma membranes.’
    • ‘To fill the channels with the aqueous buffer solution, the hydrophobic surface of PDMS was wetted with ethanol, which was gradually replaced by water.’
    • ‘When cyanobacterial cells are immersed in buffers of high osmotic strength, phycobilisome diffusion is strongly inhibited.’
  • 3Computing
    A temporary memory area in which data is stored while it is being processed or transferred, especially one used while streaming video or downloading audio.

    • ‘You can paste the text in your copy buffer into the active window with Ctrl-A.’
    • ‘First we create a buffer that is one byte bigger than the user string and fill it with zeros.’
    • ‘The data processing device may further include a write buffer for storing write data.’
    • ‘Much like a cache, the buffer is a data area between the requests being sent to the hard disk, and the data stored on the disk itself.’
    • ‘Flash memory works as a buffer because most data is read from the hard drive.’


  • 1Lessen or moderate the impact of (something)

    ‘the massage helped to buffer the strain’
    • ‘It was buffered by a rock wall erected by the Archaeological Survey of India in 1978 to secure the monument against erosion, but a lawn and some outlying structures were buried in silt.’
    • ‘Neat salicylic acid is too tough on stomachs, so scientists had to find a way to buffer it.’
    • ‘In the 1990s, the company sought to diversify its assets to buffer sagging rail business, which included buying Vancouver Wharves and Canadian Stevedoring.’
    • ‘You see, it had bought the riskiest bonds everywhere, believing that such diversification would buffer it against any given one going bad.’
    • ‘Network support can influence fathers' involvement by buffering men's stress during the transition to parenthood.’
    • ‘Does a sweep of lawn buffer the house from the road?’
    • ‘In any case, the industry is buffered from a sudden drop in demand.’
    • ‘I love how the snow buffered the sound of the cars on the nearby streets.’
    • ‘While print may provide context, a photo leaves relatively little to our imagination and elicits emotions otherwise buffered by words.’
    • ‘The main finding to date is that breast-feeding appears to buffer women's stress response.’
    • ‘So easy to read; why, then, does Harris feel the need to buffer each story with a short introduction?’
    • ‘Mangroves buffer mainland areas from the strong storms that routinely hit tropical coasts and are natural protection areas for sea life and birds.’
    • ‘Among family members, social support can help buffer the negative impacts of poverty and economic hardship.’
    • ‘Substantial research efforts have been directed to factors believed to buffer occupational stress, such as individual coping skills and social support.’
    • ‘Right through the 1997-98 meltdown, Taiwan was Asia's Treasure Island - its high foreign reserves and low foreign debt buffered it from the pain suffered elsewhere.’
    • ‘Furthermore, the seclusion of women within marriage and family life allows them to buffer the psychological shocks and reverses associated with industrial life.’
    • ‘Onwards from the classic study of Freud and Burlingham in 1943, the literature shows the positive effects of family attachment and other supports in buffering the impact of war on children.’
    • ‘It will also lose a $900,000 provincial grant that buffered the effect of dropping enrolment on a new provincial funding formula.’
    • ‘This raises the question of whether the exogenous enzyme is a poor target for the C 3 leaf PEPCk, or alternatively, whether a compensation mechanism is induced to buffer the impact of the genetic modification.’
    • ‘He has always emphasised the need to protect those on fixed incomes and has instructed successive governments to do their utmost to buffer them against the strains of economic reform.’
    cushion, absorb, soften, lessen, diminish, moderate, mitigate, allay, deaden, muffle, stifle, shield
    View synonyms
  • 2Treat with a chemical buffer.

    ‘add organic matter to buffer the resulting alkalinity’
    • ‘A total of 30 flies were homogenized in 1 ml of 0.32 M sucrose buffered with 10 mM Tris HCl pH 7.6.’
    • ‘Each media type, including SIM, was buffered with 25 mM MES and cultured for 35 d.’
    • ‘Weaver and associates compared pain on instillation of plain tetracaine hydrochloride ophthalmic solution with pain caused by a solution buffered with sodium bicarbonate to a pH level of 7.4.’
    • ‘Ten beetles were prepared for SEM by cooling on ice and immersion into cold 2% glutaraldehyde buffered in .2M sodium cacodylate for 36 hours.’
    • ‘The pH of the medium was not buffered and the volume in each container was maintained by regularly adding fresh nutrient solution to compensate for plant consumption and evaporation.’
  • 3Computing
    Store (data) in a buffer while it is being processed or transferred.

    ‘try buffering as much of the video stream as you can before you hit the 'play' button’
    • ‘The device buffers songs in memory, including sufficient for 30 minutes' anti-skip playback.’
    • ‘But how, you might ask, were they able to buffer bits of data ahead of the current streaming rate?’
    • ‘The video is buffered on the hard drive before recording.’
    • ‘The radio plays in real time - it doesn't buffer or save the audio before you hear.’
    • ‘Cunningly, the machine buffers everything, allowing you to capture a complete song or show, even if you don't press 'record' as soon as it starts.’
    • ‘The proxy then buffers the image in its own memory and terminates the connection on the server side, freeing that server resource for a new user.’
    • ‘The random access memory stores and buffers the millions of instructions per second that the processor has to churn through.’
    • ‘The processing is done by buffering the output and saving it in the cache file before it is sent to the client.’
    • ‘Dedicated servers have large amounts of Ram memory so they can store and buffer large amounts of data.’
    • ‘With the advent of 3D accelerators, the video memory was burdened with the additional task of buffering the 3D data.’


Mid 19th century: probably from obsolete buff (verb), imitative of the sound of a blow to a soft body.