From (etyl) + (-er). The natural lighting on early film sets was adjusted by opening and closing flaps in the tent cloths, called gaff cloths or gaff flaps.
(film) A chief lighting technician for a motion-picture or television production.
* 2003 , Jennifer Bosveld, Glass Works (page 18)
- The apprentice carries a gather of glass on the blowpipe to the gaffer' s bench
Likely a contraction of (godfather), but with the vowels influenced by (grandfather). Compare (etyl) , (etyl) gevatter.
(colloquial) An old man.
(British) A foreman.
An "Old Gaffer" is a sailor.
In Maritime regions "the Little Gaffer" is the baby in the house.
* See also