Definition of winnow
1a (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 Walkerb (1) : separate, sift an old hand at winnowing what is true and significant — Oscar Lewis (2) : select
2a : to treat (something, such as grain) by exposure to a current of air so that waste matter is eliminatedb : to free of unwanted or inferior elements : parec : 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
winnowerplay \ˈwi-nə-wər\ noun
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Examples of winnow in a Sentence
The least qualified applicants were winnowed out of the initial pool.
Harvesters winnowed the chaff from the wheat.
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to describe the removal of anything undesirable or unwanted (a current example of this sense would be "winnowing out outdated information").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
First Known Use: before 12th century
Definition of winnow
1 : a device for winnowing
2a : the action of winnowingb : a motion resembling that of winnowing
First Known Use of winnow
WINNOW Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of winnow for English Language Learners
: 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
Definition of winnow for Students
1 : to remove (as waste from grain) by a current of air
2 : to sort or separate from a larger group
Seen and Heard
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