1

winnow

verb win·now \ ˈwi-(ˌ)nō \
|Updated on: 12 Jun 2018
winnowed; winnowing; winnows
1 a (1) : to remove (something, such as chaff) by a current of air
(2) : to get rid of (something undesirable or unwanted) : remove often used with out
  • winnow out certain inaccuracies
  • —Stanley Walker
b (1) : separate, sift
  • an old hand at winnowing what is true and significant
  • —Oscar Lewis
(2) : select
2 a : to treat (something, such as grain) by exposure to a current of air so that waste matter is eliminated
b : to free of unwanted or inferior elements : pare
c : narrow, reduce
  • winnowed the field to four contenders
3 : to blow on : fan
  • the wind winnowing his thin white hair
  • Time
1 : to separate chaff from grain by fanning
2 : to separate desirable and undesirable elements

winnower

play \ˈwi-nə-wər\ noun

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Examples of winnow in a Sentence

  1. The least qualified applicants were winnowed out of the initial pool.

  2. Harvesters winnowed the chaff from the wheat.

Recent Examples of winnow from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'winnow.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

winnow Has Old English Roots

Beginning as windwian in Old English, winnow first referred to the removal of chaff from grain by a current of air. This use was soon extended to describe the removal of anything undesirable or unwanted (a current example of this sense would be "winnowing out outdated information"). People then began using the word for the selection of the most desirable elements (as in "winnowing out the true statements from the lies"). The association of winnow with the movement of air led to the meaning "to beat with or as if with wings," but that use is rare enough that it is found only in Merriam-Webster Unabridged. The word's last meaning ("to blow on or fan") blew in at the turn of the 19th century.

Origin and Etymology of winnow

Middle English winewen, from Old English windwian to fan, winnow; akin to Old High German wintōn to fan, Latin vannus winnowing fan, ventus wind — more at wind

2

winnow

noun
1 : a device for winnowing
2 a : the action of winnowing
b : a motion resembling that of winnowing

Recent Examples of winnow from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'winnow.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of winnow

1580

in the meaning defined at sense 1

See Words from the same year
NEW! Time Traveler

Other Agriculture/Gardening Terms


WINNOW Defined for English Language Learners

winnow

  • : to remove (people or things that are less important, desirable, etc.) from a larger group or list : to make (a list of possible choices) smaller by removing the less desirable choices

  • : to remove (the unwanted coverings of seeds) from grain by throwing the grain up in the air and letting the wind blow the unwanted parts away


WINNOW Defined for Kids

winnow

verb win·now \ ˈwi-nō \
winnowed; winnowing
1 : to remove (as waste from grain) by a current of air
2 : to sort or separate from a larger group


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