What Does Faffing About Mean?

Faffing About Meaning

Definition: To speak or act in an ineffectual manner; to dither.

Origin of Faffing About

Faff is synonymous with fuss or dither and has existed since around the 1800s. It is more common in British English than in American English. An equivalent expression in American English might be messing about.

It comes from the word faffe, which relates to something blowing in the wind. It might also relate to the words faffle or maffle, which mean to stutter. The fact that someone who is stuttering takes a long time to speak could relate to the idea of someone faffing taking a long time to get to the point.

Examples of Faffing About

what is faffing The dialogue below shows two university students working together on a group project.

Nisha: Okay, now that you’ve sharpened all your pencils twice, we really should get to work.

Alan: Okay, okay. No problem! But first I have to go to the bathroom.

Nisha: You just went to the bathroom! Are you serious? Why are faffing about? Why won’t you just help me to work on this project?

Alan: What do you mean?

Nisha: You’ve been procrastinating for over an hour! Are you just trying to annoy me so much that I give up on you and do this whole project by myself? Because I can tell you right now that it doesn’t matter how much you faff about, I’ll make sure you participate.

meaning of faffing around The second dialogue shows a father and son discussing the son’s chores.

Son: Can I go visit my friend Ben?

Dad: Absolutely not! I asked you to clean your room three days ago and you still haven’t done anything!

Son: I wanted to clean it, but I was too busy with homework!

Dad: Do you think I’m a fool? I know you weren’t doing any homework. In fact, you were just faffing about online, surfing the web. You need to stop wasting time and start working hard! I saw you pretend to clean, but it was completely ineffective! You just moved the dirt around. If you want permission to visit your friend, you have to clean your room effectively.

More Examples

The excerpt is from an article about the committee system in the United Kingdom.

  • The non-appearance of this key part of parliamentary scrutiny of government was getting embarrassing – with Speaker Bercow administering a public telling-off to the government on Wednesday and telling the whips to “stop faffing about”. –BBC News

This excerpt is about a woman whose spouse has dementia, and will likely die soon. She is tired of people avoiding saying the word death.

  • I have known Ernst for the 20 odd years Tony and I have been together. The end game is a lonely place to be. It is impossible to explain how it feels. The slow, cruel inevitability of it. What I want now is for people to talk in plain language. I hate this faffing about, not saying the “D” word. –Irish Times


The expression faffing about means lots of activity but no results.