distaff

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English[edit]

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Etymology[edit]

From Middle English distaf, from Old English distæf (distaff), from Old English *dis (cognate with Middle Low German dise (bunch of flax)) + Old English stæf (staff).

Pronunciation[edit]

Noun[edit]

distaff (plural distaffs)

  1. a device to which a bundle of natural fibres (often wool, flax, or cotton) are attached for temporary storage, before being drawn off gradually to spin thread. A traditional distaff is a staff with flax fibres tied loosely to it (see Etymology), but modern distaffs are often made of cords weighted with beads, and attached to the wrist.
  2. the part of a spinning wheel from which fibre is drawn to be spun
  3. anything traditionally done by or considered of importance to women only
  4. a woman, or women considered as a group
    • Dryden
      His crown usurped, a distaff on the throne.
    • Howell
      Some say the crozier, some say the distaff was too busy.

Quotations[edit]

Translations[edit]

Adjective[edit]

distaff (not comparable)

  1. of, relating to, or characteristic of women
  2. referring to the maternal side of a family
    • 1892, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Noble Bachelor”, in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes[1], edition HTML, The Gutenberg Project, published 2011:
      They inherit Plantagenet blood by direct descent, and Tudor on the distaff side.

Synonyms[edit]

Antonyms[edit]

  • (of, relating to, or characteristic of women): male, paternal

Translations[edit]

Derived terms[edit]