a. A short forceful exhalation of breath.
b. A short sudden gust of wind.
c. A brief sudden emission of air, vapor, or smoke.
d. A short sibilant sound produced by a puff.
2. An amount of vapor, smoke, or similar material released in a puff.
3. An act of drawing in and expelling the breath, as in smoking tobacco.
4. A swelling or rounded protuberance.
5. Puff pastry.
6. A light soft pad for applying powder or lotion.
7. A gathered, protruding portion of fabric.
8. A light padded bed covering.
a. An approving or flattering recommendation.
b. A piece of writing, as on the jacket of a book, containing often exaggerated praise, used for promotional purposes.
10. Genetics A localized region of swelling in certain chromosomes indicating the active synthesis of RNA.
v. puffed, puff·ing, puffs
1. To blow in puffs.
2. To come forth in puffs: steam puffing from an engine.
3. To breathe forcefully and rapidly: huffed and puffed up the stairs.
4. To emit puffs.
5. To take puffs on smoking material: puffing on a cigar.
6. To swell or seem to swell, as with pride or air. Often used with up: He puffed up and glared at the importuning questioner.
1. To emit or give forth in puffs.
2. To impel with puffs.
3. To smoke (a cigar, for example).
4. To inflate or distend: The wind puffed out the sail.
5. To fill with pride or conceit: The compliment puffed up his ego.
6. To publicize with often exaggerated praise: publishers who puff their new books.
[From Middle English puffen, to puff, from Old English pyffan, perhaps of imitative origin.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.