[staf, stahf]
noun, plural staffs for 1–5, 9; staves [steyvz] /steɪvz/ or staffs for 6–8, 10, 11.
  1. a group of persons, as employees, charged with carrying out the work of an establishment or executing some undertaking.
  2. a group of assistants to a manager, superintendent, or executive.
  3. a member of a staff.
  4. Military.
    1. a body of officers without command authority, appointed to assist a commanding officer.
    2. the parts of any army concerned with administrative matters, planning, etc., rather than with actual participation in combat.
  5. those members of an organization serving only in an auxiliary or advisory capacity on a given project.Compare line1(def 38).
  6. a stick, pole, or rod for aid in walking or climbing, for use as a weapon, etc.
  7. a rod or wand serving as a symbol of office or authority, as a crozier, baton, truncheon, or mace.
  8. a pole on which a flag is hung or displayed.
  9. something that supports or sustains.
  10. Also stave. Music. a set of horizontal lines, now five in number, with the corresponding four spaces between them, on which music is written.
  11. Archaic. the shaft of a spear, lance, etc.
  1. of or relating to a military or organizational staff: a staff officer; staff meetings.
  2. (of a professional person) employed on the staff of a corporation, publication, institution, or the like rather than being self-employed or practicing privately: a staff writer; staff physicians at the hospital.
verb (used with object)
  1. to provide with a staff of assistants or workers: She staffed her office with excellent secretaries.
  2. to serve on the staff of.
  3. to send to a staff for study or further work (often followed by out): The White House will staff out the recommendations before making a decision.
verb (used without object)
  1. to hire employees, as for a new office or project (sometimes followed by up): Next month we'll begin staffing up for the reelection campaign.

Origin of staff

before 900; Middle English staf (noun), Old English stæf; cognate with Dutch staf, German Stab, Old Norse stafr staff, Sanskrit stabh- support
Related formsstaff·less, adjectiveun·staffed, adjectivewell-staffed, adjective
Can be confusedstaff staph

Usage note


[staf, stahf]
  1. a composition of plaster and fibrous material used for a temporary finish and in ornamental work, as on exposition buildings.

Origin of staff

1890–95, Americanism; perhaps < German Stoff stuff


[staf-erd-sheer, -sher]
  1. a county in central England. 1154 sq. mi. (2715 sq. km). County seat: Stafford.
Also called Stafford, Staffs [stafs] /stæfs/. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for staffs

Contemporary Examples of staffs

Historical Examples of staffs

  • Scouts should make their own staffs whenever it is possible for them to secure the lumber.

    Boy Scouts Handbook

    Boy Scouts of America

  • Many of them had staffs, and all were bent nigh double under their burdens.

    The Trail of '98

    Robert W. Service

  • Nor could any of the staffs of the neighboring hotels or restaurants assist him.

    The Pit Prop Syndicate

    Freeman Wills Crofts

  • If we could break the board in two in the middle, it would make two staffs for us.

  • There were also flags on staffs stuck about which might be taken.

    Ernest Bracebridge

    William H. G. Kingston

British Dictionary definitions for staffs


abbreviation for
  1. Staffordshire


  1. a county of central England: lowlands in the east and south rise to the Pennine uplands in the north; important in the history of industry, coal and iron having been worked at least as early as the 13th century. In 1974 the industrial area in the S passed to the new county of West Midlands; Stoke-on-Trent became an independent unitary authority in 1997. Administrative centre: Stafford. Pop (excluding Stoke-on-Trent): 811 000 (2003 est). Area (excluding Stoke-on-Trent): 2624 sq km (1013 sq miles)


noun plural for senses 1,3,4 staffs or plural for senses 5-9 staffs or staves (steɪvz)
  1. a group of people employed by a company, individual, etc, for executive, clerical, sales work, etc
  2. (modifier) attached to or provided for the staff of an establishmenta staff doctor
  3. the body of teachers or lecturers of an educational institution, as distinct from the students
  4. the officers appointed to assist a commander, service, or central headquarters organization in establishing policy, plans, etc
  5. a stick with some special use, such as a walking stick or an emblem of authority
  6. something that sustains or supportsbread is the staff of life
  7. a pole on which a flag is hung
  8. mainly British a graduated rod used in surveying, esp for sighting to with a levelling instrumentUsual US name: rod
  9. Also called: stave music
    1. the system of horizontal lines grouped into sets of five (four in the case of plainsong) upon which music is written. The spaces between them are also used, being employed in conjunction with a clef in order to give a graphic indication of pitch
    2. any set of five lines in this system together with its clefthe treble staff
  1. (tr) to provide with a staff

Word Origin for staff

Old English stæf; related to Old Frisian stef, Old Saxon staf, German Stab, Old Norse stafr, Gothic Stafs; see stave


  1. US a mixture of plaster and hair used to cover the external surface of temporary structures and for decoration

Word Origin for staff

C19: of unknown origin
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 staffs



Old English stæf "walking stick, strong pole used for carrying, rod used as a weapon" (also, in plural, "letter, character, writing," cf. stæfcræft "grammar"), from Proto-Germanic *stabaz (cf. Old Saxon staf, Old Norse stafr, Old Frisian stef, Middle Low German and Middle Dutch staf, Old High German stab, German Stab, Gothic *stafs "element;" Middle Dutch stapel "pillar, foundation"), from PIE root *stebh- "post, stem, to support, place firmly on, fasten" (cf. Old Lithuanian stabas "idol," Lithuanian stebas "staff, pillar;" Old Church Slavonic stoboru "pillar;" Sanskrit stabhnati "supports;" Greek stephein "to tie around, encircle, wreathe," staphyle "grapevine, bunch of grapes;" Old English stapol "post, pillar").

Sense of "group of military officers that assists a commander" is attested from 1702, apparently from German, from the notion of the "baton" that is a badge of office or authority (a sense attested in English from 1530s). Meaning "group of employees (as at an office or hospital)" is first found 1837. Staff of life "bread" is from the Biblical phrase "to break the staff of bread" (Lev. xxvi:26), translating Hebrew matteh lekhem.



"to provide with a staff of assistants," 1859, from staff (n.). Related: Staffed; staffing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

staffs in Medicine


  1. A specific group of workers.
  2. director
  1. To provide with a staff of workers or assistants.
  2. To serve on the staff of.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.