Definition of distaff
distaffsplay \-ˌtafs, -ˌtavz\
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
Origin and Etymology of distaff
Middle English distaf, from Old English distæf, from dis- (akin to Middle Low German dise bunch of flax) + stæf staff
First Known Use: before 12th century
Did You Know?
A distaff was originally a short staff that held a bundle of fibers - of flax or wool, for example - ready to be spun into yarn or thread. Since spinning was a basic daily task customarily done by women, the distaff came to be the symbol for the work or domain of women. This symbolic use of the noun distaff dates back to the time of Chaucer and is found in several works by Shakespeare. Eventually distaff came to be used for the female branch of a family and then as an adjective, as in the distaff side of the family.
First Known Use of distaff
DISTAFF Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of distaff for English Language Learners
: of, relating to, or being a woman
Learn More about distaff
Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about distaff
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