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[win-oh] /ˈwɪn oʊ/
verb (used with object)
to free (grain) from the lighter particles of chaff, dirt, etc., especially by throwing it into the air and allowing the wind or a forced current of air to blow away impurities.
to drive or blow (chaff, dirt, etc.) away by fanning.
to blow upon; fan.
to subject to some process of separating or distinguishing; analyze critically; sift:
to winnow a mass of statements.
to separate or distinguish (valuable from worthless parts) (sometimes followed by out):
to winnow falsehood from truth.
to pursue (a course) with flapping wings in flying.
to fan or stir (the air) as with the wings in flying.
verb (used without object)
to free grain from chaff by wind or driven air.
to fly with flapping wings; flutter.
a device or contrivance used for winnowing.
an act of winnowing.
Origin of winnow
before 900; Middle English win(d)wen (v.), Old English windwian, derivative of wind wind1
Related forms
winnower, noun
unwinnowed, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for winnow
Historical Examples
  • These had lived there so long as to be able to winnow the chaff and throw the refuse off.

  • I winnow him; and if nothing but chaff results, whose fault is that?

  • This very night he is going to winnow barley on the threshing-floor.

    The Children's Bible Henry A. Sherman
  • Water is then poured over her head three times through the winnow.

  • He has sown, but he has also to reap; and if reaping is done, he has to thresh and to winnow.

    Talks To Farmers Charles Haddon Spurgeon
  • Come, friend, let us go and winnow the grain from the chaff.

    The Talking Thrush William Crooke
  • As in dry Sahara, when the winds waken, and lift and winnow the immensity of sand!

    The French Revolution Thomas Carlyle
  • Would you winnow a whole peck of chaff for only three good grains?

    Pepper & Salt Howard Pyle
  • They crush the corn into meal, and thresh and winnow the beans, and dry the pumpkin for winter use.

    I Married a Ranger Dama Margaret Smith
  • I wash out the sand, and pick out the gold; winnow away the chaff, and gather up the rich grains.

    A Summer's Outing Carter H. Harrison
British Dictionary definitions for winnow


to separate (grain) from (chaff) by means of a wind or current of air
(transitive) to examine in order to select the desirable elements
(transitive) (archaic) to beat (the air) with wings
(transitive) (rare) to blow upon; fan
  1. a device for winnowing
  2. the act or process of winnowing
Derived Forms
winnower, noun
Word Origin
Old English windwian; related to Old High German wintōn, Gothic diswinthjan, Latin ventilāre. See wind1
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
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Word Origin and History for winnow

Old English windwian, from wind "air in motion, paring down," see wind (n.1). Cognate with Old Norse vinza, Old High German winton "to fan, winnow," Gothic diswinþjan "to throw (grain) apart," Latin vannus "winnowing fan."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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