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Very pleased about something.

“I beat Dan four times in a row at pool — I was well chuffed.” (“Well,” used as an intensifier like “really” or “very,” is widespread in informal pub-register usage.)

There is no corresponding verb to “chuff”: You can’t say, “I wonder if that will chuff Mary?”

Nevertheless, the fact that the word has acquired the look of a past participle gives it the flavor of some causing agent, rather than just a general frame of mind.

A reference to someone being chuffed normally suggests some recent event or discovery that is at the root of their good humor — even if the speaker doesn’t know what it is.

“I saw her yesterday looking very chuffed about something. I wonder what it was.”

To add to the confusion, “chuffed” can also mean displeased or ill-tempered, but, fortunately, that meaning is rare: If you hear the word, it is almost bound to be in the sense of “pleased.”

It previously meant puffed with fat or chubby and is recorded from about 1600. This can be traced to a slightly older meaning of a cheek puffed with fat. Before that, the trail goes cold.

In 1860 the word comes, by an association that has not been left entirely uncovered by the sands of time, to mean “pleased.” The form “chuffed” arose, originally as military slang, nearly a hundred years later.

Mark Wainwright is a freelance writer living in Cambridge.

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