1

distaff

play
noun dis·taff \ˈdis-ˌtaf\

Definition of distaff

plural

distaffs

play \-ˌtafs, -ˌtavz\
  1. 1 a :  a staff for holding the flax, tow, or wool in spinning b :  woman's work or domain

  2. 2 :  the female branch or side of a family

Illustration of distaff

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

Other Anthropology Terms


2

distaff

adjective dis·taff

Definition of distaff

  1. 1 :  maternal 2 <the distaff side of the family> — compare spear

  2. 2 :  female 1 <distaff executives>

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.

Circa 1633

First Known Use of distaff

circa 1633


DISTAFF Defined for English Language Learners


2

distaff

adjective dis·taff

Definition of distaff for English Language Learners

  • : of, relating to, or being a woman


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