What does the idiom "off the cuff" mean?

The expression off the cuff is one of the idioms that often finds a place in our literature and enriches our language. However, its meaning is not fully understood, so it is sometimes used in the wrong situations. Please review the explanation carefully for the correct use of the off the cuff idiom.

Meaning of "off the cuff"


The phrase ‘off the cuff’ typically refers to a spontaneous or extemporaneous response, usually one that is not well thought-out or prepared. It is often used to imply that a remark or answer was not planned, but was made in the moment without any pre-existing plan. The phrase is commonly used to describe a statement made without prior thought or preparation, often with the implication that it is not carefully considered or considered to be of the same quality as a more thought-out remark.


The phrase ‘off the cuff’ is believed to originate from the practice of keeping notes, often written on a cuff, so that a speaker could refer to them during a presentation. The phrase began to be commonly used in the late 1800s. The earliest recorded use is from an 1877 edition of the British newspaper 'The Spectator', in a piece by F. Anstey which reads “He has a way of his own of ‘talking off the cuff’.”


'Off the cuff' is often used in everyday conversation. The phrase is often used to describe a response that wasn’t prepared and to lighten the mood of a conversation, especially if the speaker is discussing a difficult or sensitive topic. It can also be used in more serious contexts to indicate a lack of preparation or a lack of depth in an answer.

Example Sentences

  • I'm sorry, I don't have a prepared answer, so I'm just going to give you my best off-the-cuff response.
  • I'm not sure what the appropriate response is, but I'll give you my off-the-cuff opinion.
  • I'm not an expert on this topic, so I'm going to give you my off-the-cuff response.

The meanings of the words in the "off the cuff" idiom

From One Language to Another: Idioms in Translation

Translating idioms from one language to another can be a tricky task, as the cultural context behind an idiom can be difficult to capture. For example, the French phrase "avoir le cafard" translates to "to have the cockroach," which means to feel down or depressed. Similarly, the Chinese idiom "????" (j?ng d? zh? w?) translates to "frog at the bottom of a well," which refers to someone with a narrow view of the world.


No comment has been written about off the cuff yet, you can write the first comment and share your thoughts with our other visitors.
Leave a Reply