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From Middle English scheef, from Old English sċēaf, from Proto-Germanic *skauba- (sheaf). Akin to West Frisian skeaf (sheaf), Dutch schoof (sheaf), German Schaub, Old Norse skauf (a fox's tail). Compare further Gothic 𐍃𐌺𐌿𐍆𐍄 (skuft, hair of the head), German Schopf (tuft).


  • enPR: shēf, IPA(key): /ʃiːf/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -iːf


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.
    Synonym: reap
    • 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.
    • c. 1697, John Dryden, “Georgic I”, in The Works of Virgil:
      E’en while the reaper fills his greedy hands, / And binds the golden sheaves in brittle bands
  2. Any collection of things bound together.
    Synonym: bundle
    a sheaf of paper
    • 1986, John le Carré, A Perfect Spy:
      Together the two men march up the aisle and mount the dais, and while Muspole shakes hands with the chairman and his lady, the major draws a sheaf of notes from a briefcase and lays them on the table.
  3. A bundle of arrows sufficient to fill a quiver, or the allowance of each archer.
    • 1700, John Dryden, Palamon and Arcite:
      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.

Derived terms[edit]


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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
    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.