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In British English slang, a toff is a stereotype for someone with an aristocratic background or belonging to the landed gentry, particularly someone who exudes an air of superiority.[citation needed] For instance, the Toff, a character from the series of adventure novels by John Creasey, is an upper class crime sleuth who uses a common caricature of a toff – a line drawing with a top hat, monocle, bow-tie and cigarette with a holder – as his calling card.[1]

The word "toff" is thought to come from the word "tuft", which was a gold tassel worn by titled undergraduates at the University of Oxford or the University of Cambridge.[2][3][4][5][6] The Anglo-Saxon word "toforan" has a meaning of "superiority".[7]

Ian Kelly's book, Beau Brummell: The Ultimate Dandy, page 159, says it derives from the brown liquid that dripped from an upper class gentleman's nose after taking snuff.[8]

Hoorah Henry has a similar meaning.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Creasey, John (22 April 2014). The Toff on Fire. House of Stratus. p. 101. ISBN 9780755146390. Retrieved 4 April 2019 – via Google Books. On the other [side of the Toff's calling card], in pencil, was a sketch of a faceless man – a top hat, a monocle, a dot for one eye, a cigarette jutting from a holder, and beneath all this a neat bow tie.
  2. ^ Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford 1969
  3. ^ "toff". Online Etymology Dictionary.
  4. ^ "toff". The Free Dictionary.
  5. ^ "toff".
  6. ^ "toff".
  7. ^ Albert Jack. (2011.) It's a Wonderful Word: The Real Origins of Our Favourite Words, Random House, p. 151.
  8. ^ Kelly, Ian (23 July 2013). Beau Brummell: The Ultimate Man of Style. Simon and Schuster. p. 159. ISBN 978-1-4165-3198-2.
  9. ^ Ayto, John; Simpson, John (11 February 2010). "Thematic Index". Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang. Oxford University Press. p. 377. ISBN 9780199232055. Retrieved 4 December 2019 – via Google Books.