1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Muff
MUFF, an article of outdoor apparel, open at either end, for holding the hands in and keeping them warm, generally made of fur, but also of velvet, silk, &c. Muffs are now only used in England by women, but in the 17th and 18th centuries were fashionable for men. In Roman times the place of the glove was taken by long sleeves (manicae) reaching to the hand, and in winter special sleeves of fur were worn (cf. Cic. Phil. ii. 11, 26). In Medieval Latin we find the word muffulae, defined by Du Cange (Gloss., s.v.) as chirothecae pellitae et hibernae. He quotes from a cartulary of the year 817, of the issuing to monks of sheepskin coverings to be used during the winter. These may have been, as the Roman certainly were, separate coverings for each hand, although the cartulary cited also distinguishes the glove for summer from the muffulae for winter wear. The O. Fr. moufle meant a thick glove or mitten, and from this the Du. mof, Walloon mouffe, and thence Eng. “muff,” are probably derived. From the Fr. moufle have come the various uses, verbal and substantival, of “muffle,” viz. to wrap round for protection, for deadening sound &c., and for a chamber or receptacle in a furnace to protect objects from contact with fire while exposed to heat. The slang use of “muff” for a clumsy, awkward person is of late origin. It appears in the middle of the 19th century.