- buff (n.)
- 1570s, buffe leather "leather made of buffalo hide," from Middle French buffle "buffalo" (15c., via Italian, from Latin bufalus; see buffalo (n.)).
The color term comes from the hue of buffalo hides (later ox hides). Association of "hide" and "skin" led c.1600 to in the buff. Buff-colored uniforms of New York City volunteer firefighters since 1820s led to meaning "enthusiast" (1903).
The Buffs are men and boys whose love of fires, fire-fighting and firemen is a predominant characteristic. [N.Y. "Sun," Feb. 4, 1903]
- buff (adj.)
- "well-built, hunky," 1980s, from buff (v.) "polish, make attractive."
- buff (v.)
- "to polish, make attractive," 1885, in reference to the treatment of buff leather or else to the use of buff cloth in polishing metals, from buff (n.). Related: Buffed; buffing.