Kaf·fir also kaf·fir (kăfər)
n. pl. Kaffir or Kaf·firs
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.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.