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Kaf·fir also kaf·fir (kăfər)
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n. pl. Kaffir or Kaf·firs
Offensive
1. A Xhosa.
2. Used especially in southern Africa as a disparaging term for a black person.

[Arabic kāfir, infidel (applied to the non-Muslim peoples of southern Africa originally by Muslim merchants and slave-traders operating in the region before the arrival of Europeans); see GIAOUR.]

Usage Note: Because Kaffir is an offensive, disparaging term, many fruits and vegetables whose name traditionally included the word kaffir have been renamed, such as makrut lime for kaffir lime and durra for kaffir corn.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 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:

    Indo-European Roots

    Semitic Roots

    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.

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