In the Buff (Origin)

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Origin of the Saying "In the Buff"?

The term "in the buff" means nude.
In the Buff (Origin)
The idiom "in the buff" refers to the colour of "white" skin, which is actually a yellowy light brown or "buff."

The use of the colour "buff" to refer to bare skin was recorded by Thomas Dekker in his 1602 stage play "Satiromastix, or the Untrussing of the Humorous Poet."
  • "No, come my little Cub, doe not scorne mee because I goe in Stag, in Buffe, heer's veluet too."
  • (When Dekker wrote this, "in stag" was a common term for "in the nude." Here, Dekker uses "in Buffe" in apposition to "in Stag," which tells us that "in Stag" and "in Buffe" have the same meanings. Note also that common nouns were given capital letters back then.)
Grammatically speaking, "in the buff" is a prepositional phrase functioning as an adjective. It is classified as an adjectival phrase.

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