common in the American urban
dialect used by those of Africa
n heritage and known to the politically correct
, "def" means roughly "excellent," "of extremely high quality/skill/etc."
Pronounced identically to "deaf," the etymology of this term is very uncertain. I had always assumed it to be a mispronunciation of deft. Professional linguists*, however, disagree. The following possibilities arise for its origin:
- The Afrikaans word "deftig," meaning "smart" or "chic."
- "Death," from the common usage of doing something "to death," or to an extreme degree. This may have come from Jamaica.
- A shortened form of "definitely," "definitive," etc.
Members of the British band Def Leppard were probably unaware of this word at the time they named themselves. It's simply a misspelling of "deaf leopard."
* http://www.geocities.com/etymonline/d1etym.htm ; http://www.linguistlist.org/issues/3/3-140.html#3