distaff
I. noun (plural distaffs) Etymology: Middle English distaf, from Old English distæf, from dis- (akin to Middle Low German dise bunch of flax) + stæf staff Date: before 12th century 1. a. a staff for holding the flax, tow, or wool in spinning b. woman's work or domain 2. the female branch or side of a family II. adjective Date: circa 1633 1. maternal 2 <
the distaff side of the family
>
— compare spear 2. female 1 <
distaff executives
>

New Collegiate Dictionary. 2001.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Distaff — Dis taff, n.; pl. {Distaffs}, rarely {Distaves}. [OE. distaf, dysestafe, AS. distaef; cf. LG. diesse the bunch of flax on a distaff, and E. dizen. See {Staff}.] 1. The staff for holding a bunch of flax, tow, or wool, from which the thread is… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • distaff — O.E. distæf stick that holds flax for spinning, from dis bunch of flax (Cf. M.L.G. dise, Low Ger. diesse a bunch of flax on a distaff; see BEDIZEN (Cf. bedizen)) + stæf stick, staff (see STAFF (Cf. staff)). A synonym in English for …   Etymology dictionary

  • distaff — ► NOUN 1) a stick or spindle on to which wool or flax is wound for spinning. 2) (before another noun ) denoting the female side or members of a family. Compare with SPEAR(Cf. ↑spear) (in sense 3). ORIGIN Old English …   English terms dictionary

  • distaff — [dis′taf΄] n. [ME distaf < OE distæf < dis , flax (see DIZEN) + stæf, STAFF1] 1. a staff on which fibers, as flax or wool, are wound before being spun into thread 2. woman s work or concerns 3. Archaic woman, or women in general adj …   English World dictionary

  • Distaff — Queen Berthe instructing girls to spin flax on spindles using distaffs, Albert Anker, 1888 …   Wikipedia

  • distaff — /dis taf, tahf/, n. 1. a staff with a cleft end for holding wool, flax, etc., from which the thread is drawn in spinning by hand. 2. a similar attachment on a spinning wheel. 3. Archaic. a. a woman or women collectively. b. woman s work. adj. 4.… …   Universalium

  • distaff — UK [ˈdɪstɑːf] / US [ˈdɪˌstæf] noun [countable] Word forms distaff : singular distaff plural distaffs a small stick used in the past for winding wool around when spinning • on the distaff side …   English dictionary

  • distaff — [OE] The compound noun distaff ‘rod for holding flax, wool, etc in spinning’ was a late Old English formation from *dis ‘bunch of flax’ (a word which survives in bedizen [17], a derivative of the obsolete dizen, which originally meant ‘put flax… …   The Hutchinson dictionary of word origins

  • distaff — [ dɪstα:f] noun 1》 a stick or spindle on to which wool or flax is wound for spinning. 2》 [as modifier] denoting or concerning women: a family tree on the distaff side. Compare with spear (in sense 3). Origin OE distæf: the first element is appar …   English new terms dictionary

  • distaff — [OE] The compound noun distaff ‘rod for holding flax, wool, etc in spinning’ was a late Old English formation from *dis ‘bunch of flax’ (a word which survives in bedizen [17], a derivative of the obsolete dizen, which originally meant ‘put flax… …   Word origins

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