call someone's bluff


2 [bluhf]
verb (used with object)
to mislead by a display of strength, self-confidence, or the like: He bluffed me into believing that he was a doctor.
to gain by bluffing: He bluffed his way into the job.
Poker. to deceive by a show of confidence in the strength of one's cards.
verb (used without object)
to mislead someone by presenting a bold, strong, or self-confident front: That open face makes it impossible for him to bluff.
an act or instance or the practice of bluffing: Her pathetic story was all a bluff to get money from us. His assertive manner is mostly bluff.
a person who bluffs; bluffer: That big bluff doesn't have a nickel to his name.
call someone's bluff, to expose a person's deception; challenge someone to carry out a threat: He always said he would quit, so we finally called his bluff.

1665–75; perhaps < Low German bluffen to bluster, frighten; akin to Middle Dutch bluffen to make a trick at cards

bluffable, adjective
bluffer, noun
unbluffable, adjective
unbluffed, adjective
unbluffing, adjective

1. deceive, fool, dupe, delude, hoodwink. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
bluff1 (blʌf)
1.  to pretend to be confident about an uncertain issue or to have undisclosed resources, in order to influence or deter (someone)
2.  deliberate deception intended to create the impression of a stronger position or greater resources than one actually has
3.  call someone's bluff to challenge someone to give proof of his claims
[C19: originally US poker-playing term, from Dutch bluffen to boast]

bluff2 (blʌf)
1.  a steep promontory, bank, or cliff, esp one formed by river erosion on the outside bend of a meander
2.  (Canadian) a clump of trees on the prairie; copse
3.  good-naturedly frank and hearty
4.  (of a bank, cliff, etc) presenting a steep broad face
[C17 (in the sense: nearly perpendicular): perhaps from Middle Dutch blaf broad]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

1839, Amer.Eng., poker term, perhaps from Du. bluffen "to brag, boast," or verbluffen "to baffle, mislead." An identical word meant "blindfold, hoodwink" in 1670s, but the sense evolution and connection are unclear. OED calls it, "one of the numerous cant terms ... which arose between the Restoration
and the reign of Queen Anne."

1680s, from Du. blaf "flat, broad," apparently a North Sea nautical term for ships with flat vertical bows, later extended to landscape features.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

call someone's bluff

Expose someone's deception, invite a showdown, as in I don't believe they have enough capital; I'm going to call their bluff. This term comes from poker, where bluffing (pretending) that one has better cards than one's opponents is an intrinsic part of the game, and calling someone's bluff means forcing them to show their cards. By the late 1800s it was being applied to other enterprises. Also see show one's hand.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Idioms & Phrases
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