Definition of luff in English:



  • The edge of a fore-and-aft sail next to the mast or stay.

    • ‘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.’


  • 1Steer (a sailing vessel) nearer the wind to the point at which the sails just begin to flap.

    ‘I came aft and luffed her for the open sea’
    • ‘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. 1.1 Obstruct (an opponent in yacht racing) by sailing closer to the wind.
      • ‘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.