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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Community Comment

A Word A Day — rebuff

September 20, 2012

Word of the Day

  • rebuff
  • audio pronunciation
  • \rih-BUFF\


: to reject or criticize sharply

I offered my sister several helpful suggestions, but she rebuffed them all.

"A Nevada Legislative Committee studying the state's consolidated tax system agreed with its technical working group and rebuffed a request by the City of Fernley for a larger share of the C-Tax receipts that are given to Nevada counties, cities and special districts." — From an article in the Reno Gazette-Journal, August 8, 2012


Occurring frequently in news articles and headlines, "rebuff" derives (via Middle French "rebuffer") from Old Italian "ribuffare," meaning "to reprimand," and ultimately from the imitative verb "buffare," meaning "to puff." (You might guess that the verb "buff," meaning "to polish," is a "buffare" descendant, but it is actually unrelated.) A similar word, "rebuke," shares the "criticize" sense of "rebuff," but not the "reject" sense (one can rebuke another's actions or policies, but one does not rebuke the advances of another, for example). Like "rebuke," "rebuff" can also be used as a noun, as in "His proposal was met with a stern rebuff from the Board of Trustees."


From Merriam-Webster Online at

Spokesman-Review readers blog about news and issues in Spokane written by Dave Laird.