- a staff with a cleft end for holding wool, flax, etc., from which the thread is drawn in spinning by hand.
- a similar attachment on a spinning wheel.
- a woman or women collectively.
- women's work.
- Sometimes Offensive. noting, pertaining to, characteristic of, or suitable for a female.See also distaff side.
Origin of distaff
Examples from the Web for distaff
Indeed, the distaff vote may yet again break Republican this cycle—as it did in 2010—if the polls are to be believed.The 2014 Election Is Yet Another Scrum in the Culture Wars
October 27, 2014
As Maggie in a 1990 production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof she was more than just a slip of distaff Mississippi flesh.Kathleen Turner's New Broadway High
April 17, 2011
They may find they have more tow on their distaff than they know how to spin.The White Company
Arthur Conan Doyle
Thus are they represented on a medal, each with a distaff in her hand.Roman Antiquities, and Ancient Mythology
Charles K. Dillaway
Then Wainamoinen took the pieces of her distaff and set to work.Finnish Legends for English Children
The improvement on the distaff and spindle was the spinning wheel.
What followed the distaff and spindle in the development of spinning?
- the rod on which flax is wound preparatory to spinning
- (modifier) of or concerning womenoffensive to distaff members of the audience
Word Origin and History for distaff
Old English distæf "stick that holds flax for spinning," from dis- "bunch of flax" (cf. Middle Low German dise, Low German diesse "a bunch of flax on a distaff;" see bedizen) + stæf "stick, staff" (see staff).
A synonym in English for "the female sex, female authority in the family," since at least the late 1400s, probably because in the Middle Ages spinning was typically done by women. St. Distaff's Day was Jan. 7, when "women resumed their spinning and other ordinary employments after the holidays" [OED].