General English


  • noun a sweet that can be soft and chewy or hard and brittle, made by boiling brown sugar or treacle with butter and sometimes flavourings or nuts


  • noun nonsense, empty talk or flattery. This is predominantly a working-class usage, particularly popular in the armed forces and in London. The origin of the image is probably in the idea of something sweet, sticky and attractively wrapped.
  • noun gelignite. A term used by criminals and terrorists since the 1950s, from the explosive’s appearance.


  • a taste or aroma associated with oak-aged red wines made from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape variety

Origin & History of “toffee”

Toffee is one of the mystery words of English. It is an alteration of an earlier taffy (19th c.) (still current in American English), but where that came from is not known. The early 19th-century spelling toughy suggests that it may have been derived from tough, in allusion to the sweet’s texture, but it is probably only a later folk-etymologizing rationalization. Another possibility is that it came from tafia ‘rumlike drink made from molasses’ (18th c.), an alteration of ratafia (17th c.), which was of west Indian Creole origin.