Green’s Dictionary of Slang

toff n.

[? SE tuft as in tuft-hunter n. (any link to toffee-nosed under toffee n. is invalidated by chronology)]

1. a male house-owner.

[UK]A. Mayhew Paved with Gold 267: The brick house agin the bridge is bene if you can catch the ‘burerk’ (mistress) at home, but the ‘toff’ is a mortal downy bird and fly to everything.

2. (also tof, toffy, toft) an aristocrat, an upper-class person in general.

[UK]A. Mayhew Paved with Gold 101: The rather degrading appellation of ‘tof’ was given to all persons of the male gender.
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. 109: TOFT, a showy individual, a swell.
[UK]Wild Boys of London I 82/2: You should dress like him, Sam, then the young lady will think you’re a real toff.
[UK]G.R. Sims Dagonet Ballads 80: I set there as proud as a peacock, a-holdin’ the reins like a toff.
[UK] ‘’Arry at a Political Pic-Nic’ Punch 11 Oct. 180/1: They ain’t got the ’ang of it, Charlie, the toffs ain’t — no go and no spice.
[UK]Proc. Old Bailey 14 Nov. 112: I asked him what he was there [i.e. on trial] for—he told me ‘For murdering an old toff in the Borough’.
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘Mitchell Doesn’t Believe in the Sack’ in Roderick (1972) 135: I’ll get a job on a station, or at some toff’s house.
[UK]Bateman & LeBrunn [perf. Marie Lloyd] Folkestone for the Day 🎵 The would-be-if-they-could-be toffs, they wished us miles away.
[UK]A. Binstead Pitcher in Paradise 34: Certainly these ‘toffs’ [...] had promised him a ‘pony’ if he got them to Brighton.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 27 Mar. 6/1: ‘Kicker’ became a blooming toff, member of the V.K.C. and owned racehorses.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 25 Sept. 4/7: Farewell the ‘meal’ they used to sell to swaggie or to ‘toffie’.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 25 May 11/3: Drivin’ toffies late at night, / When they couldn’t keep from waggin’ / Of their jaws with too much skite.
[UK]R. Tressell Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (1955) 257: Anyone could tell ’e’d been a toff. It was very certain ’e’d never bin brought up to work for ’is livin’.
[Aus]Sport (Adelaide) 23 Oct. 5/1: A so-called gentleman toff.
[UK]Hangar Happenings Nov. 3: We’re talking to some ‘Brass-hat’ toff.
[UK](con. c.1910) J.B. Booth London Town 304: A toff comes up to me, eye-glass, race-glasses, swell clobber and all.
[UK]Magic Comic 16 Sept. n.p.: That big Yankee toff.
[UK]G. Kersh They Die with Their Boots Clean 184: This gentleman — mind you, a proper toff — has not got the price of the fare.
[Aus]D. Stivens Jimmy Brockett 30: Sadie’s people were toffs.
[Aus]F.J. Hardy Yarns of Billy Borker 23: One bloke suggested he should send his kids to the university. ‘What,’ he answered. ‘And turn them into toffs and scabs?’.
[UK]A. Sillitoe Start in Life (1979) 100: He might argue his way out of it by saying some toff [...] had given it him for cleaning his car.
[UK]P. Bailey Eng. Madam 70: I mean, he was really distinguished, a proper toff.
[Aus](con. 1964-65) B. Thorpe Sex and Thugs and Rock ’n’ Roll 2: That June of ’63 King’s Cross was [...] brothels, hookers, pimps, hoons, charity molls, spruikers, toffs, chats, mooks, lairs, mugs, phizgigs, drag queens, straights, shines, bent cops, [...] tea leaves, neon, glitz.
[UK]K. Sampson Powder 18: No matter how street his clobber, his face gave it away. He was a toff.
[UK]Indep. 28 Sept. 15: Dromey weighed in, describing Mr Johnson a ‘tufty toff from Eton’ who was as ‘genuine as a nine-bob note.’.
[UK]Week 8 Jan. 25/2: Josefina Gabrielle as a delightfully minxy toff.
[Aus]G. Gilmore Class Act [ebook] ‘Me and a load of toffs, what could go wrong’.

3. attrib. use of sense 2.

[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 16 Dec. 8/3: I’d a toff as went to visit / Toff a house as ever ware.
[Aus]J. Furphy Rigby’s Romance (1921) Ch. xiv: 🌐 A toff-gurl name o’ Florence, used to nag at her bloke, o’ purpose for him to show her she wasn’t goin’ to wear the (adj.) breeches.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 24 Nov. 4/8: Them swines with the top-’ats an’ toff-drawls.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 30 Mar. 11/5: I’m sure as you'll agree / When I tell this little story / Of some toff society.
[UK]N. Dunn Poor Cow 71: Men phoned her up and Auntie Emm put on her toff voice and took messages.
[UK]D. O’Donnell Locked Ward (2013) 325: He could mix the toff talk with the most foul gutter language.

4. anyone considered either to be or to be posing as a superior person.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 5 July 13/2: A Sydney judge [...] the other day ground out a homily to a young lady in the dock on the error of her ways, and finished off by sentencing her to 18 months with hard labour. ‘Why,’ returned the fair one, ‘I can do that on my head like a sanguinary toff!’.
[UK]Binstead & Wells Pink ’Un and Pelican 90: Stay they did, and a ripping fine exhibition of the art they witnessed, seeing that the contestants were Smith [...] and Toff Wall.
[UK]Marvel XIV:344 June 3: And am the swaggerest of swaggering swells, the most howling of howling toffs.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 12 Dec. 34/3: She was a little toff, and I treated her as a toff. I spent a lot of money on her at times – sometimes half a crown at a pop.
[US]P. & T. Casey Gay-cat 174: Hi s’y! Hi there me young toff with the yaller dicky-bird!
[UK]P. O’Donnell Islanders (1933) 132: She used to wear a hat, an’ was a terrible toff when I married her.
[US](con. 1917–19) Dos Passos Nineteen Nineteen in USA (1966) 363: I’d a ’ad ’arf a mind to let the toff ’ave a go at me.
[Aus]D. Stivens Courtship of Uncle Henry 39: Dang it all, Herb, a bloke can’t even spit. Turnin’ me into a bloody toff, she is.
[Ire](con. 1940s) B. Behan Borstal Boy 226: Old toffs of ladies used to bring the college boys to dances.
[UK]C. MacInnes Absolute Beginners 168: It was the top hip rendezvous for the dudes and toffs and mashers, and their birds.
[UK]F. Norman Guntz 180: I was feeling very much like a toff.
[UK]Guardian 14 May 30: That la-di-da voice I’ve heard him use when dealing with the toffs.

5. one who acts bravely or ‘nobly’.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 14 Dec. 3/2: His jumping it was splendid, and he made the pace so fast, / That before two miles were finished there were only two could last; / One was the veteran Fairfield: he galloped like a toff; / At my girth the Streak was racing, and I could not shake him off.
[UK]Marvel 15 May 4: All the gents here are real toffs, proper sportsmen, every one of them.
[UK]G. Blake Shipbuilders (1954) 157: Cancer of the liver, the poor old bastard. A toff and a gentleman, if ever there was one, a toff and a gentleman.
[UK]D. Powis Signs of Crime 205: Toff Gentleman (in every sense), including a complimentary description of an honourable and up right man.
[NZ]G. Newbold Big Huey 246: cop it like a toff (v) Accept without complaint. [Ibid.] 255: toff (n) Person of stature or integrity.
[Aus]Tupper & Wortley Aus. Prison Sl. Gloss. 🌐 Toff. A reliable fellow prisoner or (sometimes) prison officer.

6. one who behaves kindly, generously; thus in phr. youre a toff, you’re very kind, thank you very much.

[UK]A. Morrison Tales of Mean Streets (1983) 52: ‘Dave,’ he cried to Burge, who was walking on, ‘won’t you ’ave a drink?’ And, ‘Well, if you are goin’ to do the toff, I ain’t proud.’.
[UK]British Wkly 27 Jan. 306/2: A Paisley bailie let off a man easier than the culprit expected, and was addressed, ‘Thank you, sir, you’re an old toff.’ This was meant for a compliment [OED].
[NZ]Truth (London) 18 June 1678/3: Slang terms: [...] tall, the thing, thundering, toff, topper, upper-crust, upper-ten, weather-eye, wrinkle [etc] .
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 15 Sept. 13/1: We adabeer an’ didagit; / An’ I’ve dunnin the quid. / Ewuza tofter gimme it. / I wunnerwye edid.
[UK]J. Curtis They Drive by Night 49: Thanks, mate, you’re a toff.
[UK]R. Llewellyn None But the Lonely Heart 168: Ta, Ma, [...] You’re a toff.
[US]Mad mag. Jan.–Feb. 23: Thanks guvner [...] you’re a regular toff.
[Ire](con. 1940s) B. Behan Borstal Boy 284: ’E’s a bloody old toff.
[Aus] ‘Whisper All Aussie Dict.’ in Kings Cross Whisper (Sydney) xli 4/4: toff: A nice fellow.
[UK]F. Norman Too Many Crooks Spoil the Caper 92: ‘Thanks,’ I gasped. ‘You’re a toff.’.

7. (Aus.) an expert.

[Aus]M.B. ‘Chopper’ Read Chopper 4 38: He is quite a weight-lifting toff.

In derivatives

toffish (adj.) (also toffy)

aristocratic, stylish, sophisticated.

‘The Druid’ Post and Paddock 59: Doncaster (whose High Street is always so redolent of toffy and ‘mellow peers’).
[UK]J. Greenwood In Strange Company 43: Tall hats are toffish in Costerdom.
[UK] ‘’Arry’s Spring Thoughts’ Punch 17 Apr. 185: Wot I say is, a Toff should dress toffy.
[UK] ‘’Arry on a ’ouseboat’ Punch 15 Aug. 76: I’m Toffy, you know, and no flies; swim with the Swells and all that.
[Aus]Bird o’ Freedom (Sydney) 28 Feb. 1/4: Can Anybody Tell Us [...] Whether the P.M.G. was really kissed at the station by three would-be toffish young ladies.
[UK]Albert Chevalier ‘Sich A Smart Man Too!’ 🎵 Sich a very smart man! No Tory pride, no toffish affectation!
[Aus]Clipper (Hobart, Tas.) 15 Aug. 3/4: Right around around the corner comes a / Bloke, as how he were a swell; / Dressed up toffy, on him leanin / Were a andsome lookin gell.
[NZ]Truth (London) 10 June 35/1: ‘Lisa’s second was one of them sort [...] only toffier’.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 8 Nov. 35/2: You’re one of those toffy blankers as wants to put down us blokes who’s tryin’ to earn a’ ’onest livin’.
[Aus]Truth (Perth) 9 Apr. 8/8: You’d be surprised if I told you / Of a house as I could name, / Toffish, right down good old swell mob.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 6 Aug. 32/3: Well, about nine o’clock me an’ Scotty was sittin’ on this same form feelin’ p’ticular bad – nearly as bad as we do now, Mister – w’en a toffy-lookin’ tea traveller or somethin’ [...] came on to th’ verandah to meet the cockies who were coming in for their sugar money.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 2 June 6/6: That toffy bloke is on his own.
[NZ]G. Slatter Gun in My Hand 217: That’s toffy. No eating in the kitchen for the Pommie Croxleys.
[Aus](con. 1948) N. Keesing Lily on the Dustbin 46: Mrs Jones was frequently irritated by Mrs Smith’s allegedly ‘stuck-up’ and ‘toffy’ way of speaking.
[Aus]J. Byrell Lairs, Urgers & Coat-Tuggers 58: [A] very large and flash joint somewhere toffy like South Yarra.
[UK]Observer 27 Dec. 32: Toffy daughters of Notting Hill types profiled [...] in glossy magazines.
R. Wright Henderson’s Spear 247: Room 5, across the passage: an Englishman, about my age, toffish voice and an expensive surfboard.
toffishness (n.)

1. affectation, ‘putting on airs’.

[UK]J. Greenwood Little Ragamuffin 47: This was considered [...] as rather approaching what is known as ‘toffishness.’.
[UK]J. Greenwood In Strange Company 43: He [a coster] calls it ‘toffishness.’.
[US]J.A. Mitchell Life 21: Let us have peace from this swank and this toffishness / Social and business and arty stand-offishness.
[NZ]Truth (London) 10 June 35/1: ‘There’s toffishness for yer [...] My eye! See their clothes’.
[Aus]J. Furphy Such Is Life (1981) 344: There’s nothing but selfishness an’ man-eatin’, with a bit of toffishness an’ foolish yabber to set it off.

2. aristocratic standards.

[UK]‘Pot’ & ‘Swears’ Scarlet City 400: A toff’s a toff and always a toff and there ain’t getting none of his toffishness out of him.
toffster (adj.)

(Aus.) aristocratic, upper-class.

Shipping & Mercantile Gaz. 3 Nov. 3/6: Shipping News [...] Outward-Bound. Toffster (Oct 31) Rotterdam.
[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 11 Sept. 1/5: See ’em with their toffster togs on, / As they drive down Tatt’sall’sway.

In compounds

toff-crib (n.)

(UK tramp) the house of prosperous owners.

[UK]‘Tramps: Their Ways & Means’ in Wellington Jrnl 17 Sept. 2/6: ‘We “mooched” (begged) two “toff cribs” (gentlemen’s houses) up yon.
[UK]Birmingham Dly Post 31 Mar. 3/4: A couple of miles from this very lodging-house was a ‘toff-crib’ (gentleman’s house), famous as a ‘square ken’ (good house) for every one who called.
toff’s resort (n.)

(Aus.) the Melbourne suburb of Pentridge, renamed as Coburg post-1850, to avoid identification with the local Pentridge Jail.

[Aus]Crowe Aus. Sl. Dict. 86: [T]off’s resort, Pentridge.

In phrases

do the toff (v.)

to act in an ostentatious manner.

[US]New Ulm Rev. 21 Mar. 7/3: Never mind [...] Another week or two, an we’ll be doin’ the toff around lime-us, dressed up to the knocker.
penny toff (n.)

a lower-class dandy who can only imitate the richer, genuine article.

[UK]J. Ware Passing Eng. of the Victorian Era 194/2: Penny toff (London, 1870 on). The lowest description of toff – the cad imitator of the follies of the jeunesse dorée.