Definition of gaffer in US English:



  • 1The chief electrician in a motion-picture or television production unit.

    • ‘She always had time for the gaffers, the prop guys, the stage hands, the script girls, even the security guards.’
    • ‘It was very tough, we were the crew, the grips, the gaffers, the directors, Rob and I were two of the actors, we did the costumes, the make-up FX, everything.’
    • ‘The gaffer huffed and puffed behind his camera man.’
    • ‘And not just extras, gaffers and best boys either; she's apparently done this to several of her costars.’
    • ‘It might have been an actor, it might have been the director, or maybe even one of the gaffers.’
    • ‘But if you're talking to make-up artists or gaffers or other rank-and-file workers in the industry, the values are much more traditional.’
    • ‘Each one of us, everybody here in this room, sound, gaffers, assistants, whoever it is, we all have to do something to reverse the effects of the C02.’
    • ‘They are great as a unit so although the gaffer won't be there he will be, if you know what I mean.’
    • ‘In order to eat, they had to hang out with gaffers and best boys!’
    • ‘She gatecrashes a chat with Dennis when the lads are first planning their trip and she rather takes a shine to the gaffer.’
    • ‘It took five minutes for the names of all the actors, producers, editors, gaffers, grips, best boys, dialect coaches, wig makers and steelworkers to crawl by.’
    • ‘The 60-year-old star caught a gaffer fooling around with an electronic toy designed to mimic the sound of flatulence and confiscated it.’
    • ‘Then he assembled a meeting between himself, Norman, Savannah, the first A.D., the cinematographer and the head gaffer and let them know what was going on.’
    • ‘What is the bond between gaffers and costumers?’
    • ‘The number of people who work on these movies is huge, and things happen - gaffers grab the wrong wire, carpenters fall off scaffolds, smokepots go off in a FX tech's face.’
    • ‘He is joking with the gaffer, and during the hour of the shoot, goes out of his way to speak to each of the crew, signs autographs, makes small talk.’
  • 2informal An old man.

    • ‘At first Pak Rabun reminded me of an old English gaffer.’
    • ‘An old gaffer sold me a whole crate of them for the price of a bottle.’
    • ‘Old gaffers recited love-poetry, and made the evening shadows creep with more tales about a Greek-tongued demon of the hills.’
    • ‘He noticed that one of the old gaffers had a bluish lump under his right ear (he would forget his face but he would never forget his ear) and the girl had a fine golden chain around her bare neck.’
    old man, elderly man, senior citizen, pensioner, oap, grandfather
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  • 3British informal A person in charge of others; a boss.

    • ‘Jacobs, now in his tenth season at the club, has seen gaffers come and go.’
    • ‘It's the players who do the business, not the gaffer and when we cross that white line, it's up to us.’
    • ‘It's also helped that the gaffer has told me to play forward more.’
    • ‘When the gaffer arrived, he knew many of the players by name only.’
    • ‘We have added seven players, the gaffer has freshened things up and kept competition for places at a premium.’
    • ‘The gaffer and the players kept asking if they could see it, so why not?’
    • ‘The gaffer's man-management skills really shone through when we lost seven games on the trot earlier in the season.’
    • ‘The gaffer only buys quality players and he has brought in another one.’
    • ‘Obviously, the gaffer is far superior in international football compared to me.’
    • ‘The gaffer has spoken to the chairman and told me to just get on with organising everything.’
    • ‘The gaffer made me captain at the start of the season and I want to be back out there helping the lads get back up the league.’
    • ‘The gaffer is such a good manager that he is bound to attract interest from bigger clubs.’
    • ‘But the gaffer thought I'd looked all right in training and gave me the chance and I didn't want to let anyone down.’
    • ‘I know all the lads are right behind the gaffer in his dislike of the United boss and they will be fired up - make no mistake.’
    • ‘Both men, though, look set to make bigger names for themselves as gaffers than they did as players.’
    • ‘Ferguson, one of the last of the old-style authoritarian gaffers, has had those rules challenged in a world that makes some footballers behave like Hollywood megastars.’
    • ‘Again and again the contributors write of you as a sort of capo, the gaffer, the boss.’
    • ‘Predicting a better period under Smith, he has been impressed by the new gaffer.’
    • ‘Everyone knows we haven't got the biggest squad in the world and it seems that every time the gaffer gets another player back in the mix, he loses another through either injury or suspension - or both!’
    • ‘The overall squad isn't the biggest, so the gaffer needs as many players as possible and if everyone is fit, the squad is in better shape all round.’
    boss, manager, manageress, foreman, forewoman, overseer, controller, supervisor, superintendent
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Late 16th century (in gaffer (sense 3 of the noun)): probably a contraction of godfather; compare with gammer.