• synonyms


[stey-puh l]
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  1. a short piece of wire bent so as to bind together papers, sections of a book, or the like, by driving the ends through the sheets and clinching them on the other side.
  2. a similar, often U-shaped piece of wire or metal with pointed ends for driving into a surface to hold a hasp, hook, pin, bolt, wire, or the like.
verb (used with object), sta·pled, sta·pling.
  1. to secure or fasten by a staple or staples: to staple three sheets together.

Origin of staple1

before 900; Middle English stapel orig., support, post, Old English stapol; cognate with Middle Dutch stapel foundation, German Stapel pile, Old Norse stǫpull pillar


[stey-puh l]
  1. a principal raw material or commodity grown or manufactured in a locality.
  2. a principal commodity in a mercantile field; goods in steady demand or of known or recognized quality.
  3. a basic or necessary item of food: She bought flour, sugar, salt, and other staples.
  4. a basic or principal item, thing, feature, element, or part: Cowboy dramas are a staple on television.
  5. the fiber of wool, cotton, flax, rayon, etc., considered with reference to length and fineness.
  6. Textiles. a standard length of textile fibers, representing the average of such fibers taken collectively, as short-staple or long-staple cotton.
  7. History/Historical. a town or place appointed by royal authority as the seat of a body of merchants having the exclusive right of purchase of certain classes of goods for export.
  1. chief or prominent among the products exported or produced by a country or district; chiefly or largely dealt in or consumed.
  2. basic, chief, or principal: staple industries.
  3. principally used: staple subjects of conversation.
verb (used with object), sta·pled, sta·pling.
  1. to sort or classify according to the staple or fiber, as wool.

Origin of staple2

1375–1425; late Middle English: place where merchants have trading rights < Middle Dutch stapel
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for staple


  1. a short length of thin wire bent into a square U-shape, used to fasten papers, cloth, etc
  2. a short length of stiff wire formed into a U-shape with pointed ends, used for holding a hasp to a post, securing electric cables, etc
  1. (tr) to secure (papers, wire, etc) with a staple or staples

Word Origin

Old English stapol prop, of Germanic origin; related to Middle Dutch stapel step, Old High German staffal


  1. of prime importance; principalstaple foods
  2. (of a commodity) forming a predominant element in the product, consumption, or trade of a nation, region, etc
  1. a staple commodity
  2. a main constituent; integral part
  3. mainly US and Canadian a principal raw material produced or grown in a region
  4. the fibre of wool, cotton, etc, graded as to length and fineness
  5. (in medieval Europe) a town appointed to be the exclusive market for one or more major exports of the land
  1. (tr) to arrange or sort (wool, cotton, etc) according to length and fineness

Word Origin

C15: from Middle Dutch stapel warehouse; see staple 1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for staple


"bent piece of metal with pointed ends," late 13c., from Old English stapol "post, pillar," from Proto-Germanic *stapulaz "pillar" (cf. Old Frisian stapul "stem of a tooth," Middle Low German stapel "block for executions," German Stapel "stake, beam"), from PIE stebh- (see staff (n.)).

Meaning "piece of thin wire driven through papers to hold them together" is attested from 1895. How this evolved into the modern fastening device is unclear, and it may not be the same word.


"principal article grown or made in a country or district," early 15c., "official market for some class of merchandise," from Anglo-French (14c.), from Old French estaple "market," from a Germanic source akin to Middle Low German stapol, Middle Dutch stapel "market," from the same source as staple (n.1), the notion being of market stalls behind pillars of an arcade, or else of a raised platform where the king's deputies administered judgment. The sense of "principle article grown or made in a place" is 1610s, short for staple ware "wares and goods from a market" (early 15c.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper