Buff is a contraction of buffle or buffalo; and
buff skin is the skin of the buffalo prepared. “To stand in buff” is to stand without clothing in one's bare skin. “To strip to
the buff” is to strip to the skin. The French for “buff” is buffle,
which also means a buffalo.
To stand buff,
also written bluff,
meaning firm, without flinching.
Sheridan, in his School for Scandal,
ii. 3, says, “That he
should have stood bluff to old bachelor so long, and sink into a
husband at last.” It is a nautical term; a “bluff shore” is one with a
bold and almost perpendicular front. The word buff,
a blow or
buffet, may have got confounded with bluff, but without doubt numerous
instances of “buff” can be adduced.
“And for the good old cause stood buff, `Gainst many a bitter kick
Butler: Hudibras's Epitaph.
“I must even stand buff and outface him.” —Fielding.
BUFF in “Blind-man's buff,” the well-known game, is an allusion to
the three buffs or pats which the “blind-man” gets when he has caught
a player. (Norman-French, buffe, a blow; Welsh, paff,
verb, paffio, to thump; our buffet is a little slap.)
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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