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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 winnower
Historical Examples
  • While the artisans fought on the barricades he was painting “The winnower.”

  • The payment to the winnower is at the rate of fourpence per five bushels.

    The Khedive's Country George Manville Fenn
  • These she placed on a winnower, which in turn was set on a rice-mortar.

    The Tinguian Fay-Cooper Cole
  • This accomplished, the grain is freed from chaff by tossing it in a winnower.

  • The sale of his “winnower” had brought him five hundred francs, and these five hundred francs gave him courage to defy the world.

  • The winnower is raised a few inches above the ground, and the woman asks the child its name, then drops it.

    The Tinguian Fay-Cooper Cole
  • The spirit was followed, by Gīlen, who bade the lad take hold of one side of the winnower, while he held the other.

    The Tinguian Fay-Cooper Cole
  • The medium takes the head-axe, and then the two women take hold of the winnower with their free hands.

    The Tinguian Fay-Cooper Cole
  • So Millet painted his first wonderful peasant picture "The winnower," and just as the family were starving he sold it--for $100.

  • As soon as the chaff was removed she emptied the rice into her basket and covered it with the winnower.

    Philippine Folk Tales Mabel Cook Cole
British Dictionary definitions for winnower


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 winnower



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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