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Video Game Dictionary - Buff and Debuff

Buff / Debuff

IPA /bʌf/


A buff in games is generally used to describe any positive effective that affects the player, allies, or on enemies, too. The word comes from the regular word buff, as in to polish or improve the look of.

That word itself comes from the French word for Buffalo, and “buffe leather” from the mid to late 1500s. The game term relates closely to the other modern meaning of “buff” as in “hunky” or “strong”.

As one would imagine the term “debuff” also comes directly from this, simply meaning the opposite of buff. This means that it is a negative effect on a player, allies, or enemies alike.

Examples of Buffs would be:

  • Increasing the health of the target
  • Increasing the damage output of the target
  • Increasing the speed of the target

Examples of Debuffs would be:

  • Decreasing the maximum health of the target
  • Decreasing the resistances of the target
  • Decreasing the movement speed of the target

Interestingly it’s somewhat unclear when “Buff” became common between video games and tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons. The first time “buff” was mentioned in official D&D content was in 2001, with colloquial use seemingly even later in forum posts from 2003. So despite D&D being much older than this, it was likely video games that increased the use of the term in the gaming space first.

Example usage

“Ok, buff me and I’ll tank that boss.”

“I’ve got to move back, he’s put the debuff on me.”

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