Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Kerfuffle

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is kerfuffle. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Kerfuffle is an informal word that means “a disturbance or fuss typically caused by a dispute or conflict.” 

// The reclassification of Pluto from a planet to a dwarf planet caused quite a kerfuffle among astronomy lovers.

KERFUFFLE in Context

“I wasn’t the only one given a seat that had already been claimed. … Thankfully the flight was half-empty. Once the seating kerfuffle subsided, I noticed something remarkable. I had an incredible amount of legroom …” — Christopher Muther, The Boston Globe, 8 June 2022

Did You Know?

Fuffle is an old Scottish verb that means “to muss” or “to throw into disarray”—in other words, to (literally) ruffle someone’s (figurative) feathers. The addition of car-, possibly from a Scottish Gaelic word meaning “wrong” or “awkward,” didn’t change its meaning much. In the 19th century carfuffle, with its variant curfuffle, became a noun, which in the 20th century was embraced by a broader population of English speakers and standardized to kerfuffle, referring to a more figurative feather-ruffling. There is some kerfuffle among language historians over how the altered spelling came to be favored. One theory holds that it might have been influenced by onomatopoeic words like kerplunk that imitate the sound of a falling object hitting a surface.

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