[ win-oh ]
/ ˈwɪn oʊ /

verb (used with object)

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 formswin·now·er, nounun·win·nowed, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for winnow

British Dictionary definitions for winnow


/ (ˈwɪnəʊ) /


to separate (grain) from (chaff) by means of a wind or current of air
(tr) to examine in order to select the desirable elements
(tr) archaic to beat (the air) with wings
(tr) rare to blow upon; fan


  1. a device for winnowing
  2. the act or process of winnowing
Derived Formswinnower, noun

Word Origin for winnow

Old English windwian; related to Old High German wintōn, Gothic diswinthjan, Latin ventilāre. See wind 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 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