• synonyms


verb (used with object)
  1. 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.
  2. to drive or blow (chaff, dirt, etc.) away by fanning.
  3. to blow upon; fan.
  4. to subject to some process of separating or distinguishing; analyze critically; sift: to winnow a mass of statements.
  5. to separate or distinguish (valuable from worthless parts) (sometimes followed by out): to winnow falsehood from truth.
  6. to pursue (a course) with flapping wings in flying.
  7. to fan or stir (the air) as with the wings in flying.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to free grain from chaff by wind or driven air.
  2. to fly with flapping wings; flutter.
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  1. a device or contrivance used for winnowing.
  2. an act of winnowing.
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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
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for winnower

Historical Examples

  • While the artisans fought on the barricades he was painting “The Winnower.”

    The History of Modern Painting, Volume 2 (of 4)

    Richard Muther

  • 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.

British Dictionary definitions for winnower


  1. to separate (grain) from (chaff) by means of a wind or current of air
  2. (tr) to examine in order to select the desirable elements
  3. (tr) archaic to beat (the air) with wings
  4. (tr) rare to blow upon; fan
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    1. a device for winnowing
    2. the act or process of winnowing
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Derived Formswinnower, noun

Word Origin

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 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."

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper