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From Old English sceaf, from Proto-Germanic. Akin to German Schaub, Old Norse skauf ‎(a fox's tail). Compare Gothic 𐍃𐌺𐌿𐍆𐍄 ‎(skuft, hair of the head), German Schopf ‎(tuft), Albanian çup ‎(without tail, maimed).


sheaf ‎(plural sheaves or sheafs)

  1. A quantity of the stalks and ears of wheat, rye, or other grain, bound together; a bundle of grain or straw.
    • 1593, William Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus, Act V, Scene III, line 70:
      O, let me teach you how to knit again / This scattered corn into one mutual sheaf, / These broken limbs again into one body.
    • (Can we date this quote?) John Dryden:
      The reaper fills his greedy hands, / And binds the golden sheaves in brittle bands.
  2. Any collection of things bound together; a bundle.
    a sheaf of paper
  3. A bundle of arrows sufficient to fill a quiver, or the allowance of each archer.
    • (Can we date this quote?) John Dryden:
      The sheaf of arrows shook and rattled in the case.
  4. A quantity of arrows, usually twenty-four.
    • 1786, Francis Grose, A Treatise on Ancient Armour and Weapons, page 34:
      Arrows were anciently made of reeds, afterwards of cornel wood, and occasionally of every species of wood: but according to Roger Ascham, ash was best; arrows were reckoned by sheaves, a sheaf consisted of twenty-four arrows.
  5. (mechanical) A sheave.
  6. (mathematics) An abstract construct in topology that associates data to the open sets of a topological space, together with well-defined restrictions from larger to smaller open sets, subject to the condition that compatible data on overlapping open sets corresponds, via the restrictions, to a unique datum on the union of the open sets.


  • (bundle of grain): reap


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sheaf ‎(third-person singular simple present sheafs, present participle sheafing, simple past and past participle sheafed)

  1. (transitive) To gather and bind into a sheaf; to make into sheaves; as, to sheaf wheat.
  2. (intransitive) To collect and bind cut grain, or the like; to make sheaves.
    • 1599, William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act III, Scene II, line 107:
      They that reap must sheaf and bind; Then to cart with Rosalind.