a. The act of sailing closer into the wind.
b. The forward edge of a fore-and-aft sail.
2. Archaic The fullest part of the bow of a ship.
v. luffed, luff·ing, luffs
1. To steer a sailing vessel closer into the wind, especially with the sails flapping.
2. To flap while losing wind. Used of a sail.
1. To sail closer into the wind during a race so as to prevent (an opponent's boat) from passing on the windward side.
2. To raise or lower (the boom of a crane or derrick).
[Middle English lof, spar holding out the windward tack of a square sail, from Old French, probably of Germanic 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.