In South African speech, this word (no, I won't say or even write it) corresponds roughly to the American use of the word Nigger, but is even more derogatory.

The ironic thing is that the derivation of the word is from a Moslem word meaning unbeliever, one who does not follow Islam, and thereby came to mean an African from the South end of Africa, so technically most white South Africans are.

South Africans with any taste do not use the word anymore. It should be a relic of a thankfully bygone era.

Note: this word is still an atomic bomb of profanity. The South African constitution protects free speech, with a few exceptions such as racial hate speech, which this word could easily fall under.

Kaffir is also the name given to the small, thin, desert cats common in Egypt to Ethiopia and also in Cyprus. Unlike most animals, they have no intrinsic fear of human beings and will boldly walk into your home in search of the small-to-tiny game (rodents, insects, and the like) , offal and table scraps, that is their food. Speculation holds that this propensity, coupled with some evolved behavioral changes (cries mimicing that of a human baby, for instance) that led to the Egyptian (as opposed to the European) strain of domestic feline we know today. Kaffir bones have been found in human settlements in Cyprus from about 9000 BCE onwards.

Kaf"fir (?), Ka"fir (?), n. [Ar. kfir infidel, pagan, fr. kafara to be skeptical in religious matters; -- a name given to certain infidel races by the Mohammedans. Cf. Giaour.] Ethnol. (a)

One of a race which, with the Hottentots and Bushmen, inhabit South Africa. They inhabit the country north of Cape Colony, the name being now specifically applied to the tribes living between Cape Colony and Natal; but the Zulus of Natal are true Kaffirs.

(b)

One of a race inhabiting Kafiristan in Central Asia.

[Spelt also Caffre.]

Kaffir corn Bot., a Cape Colony name for Indian millet.

 

© Webster 1913.

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