[ win-oh ]
See synonyms for: winnowwinnowing on

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.

  1. to blow upon; fan.

  2. to subject to some process of separating or distinguishing; analyze critically; sift: to winnow a mass of statements.

  3. to separate or distinguish (valuable from worthless parts) (sometimes followed by out): to winnow falsehood from truth.

  4. to pursue (a course) with flapping wings in flying.

  5. to fan or stir (the air) as with the wings in flying.

verb (used without object)
  1. to free grain from chaff by wind or driven air.

  2. to fly with flapping wings; flutter.

  1. a device or contrivance used for winnowing.

  2. an act of winnowing.

Origin of winnow

before 900; Middle English win(d)wen (v.), Old English windwian, derivative of windwind1

Other words from winnow

  • win·now·er, noun
  • un·win·nowed, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use winnow in a sentence

  • When it has become white and fine, it is placed in a kind of linen winnowing-fan, which is kept damp in a peculiar manner.

  • It is the winnowing fan of death that makes for the development of animal life.

    Theism or Atheism | Chapman Cohen
  • A winnowing process—Swartboy's thick lips acting as a fan—was next gone through; and the legs and wings were thus got rid of.

  • Jud had hardly said this when there came a loud hoot, and the sound of winnowing wings reached them.

  • On the second afternoon, such is effect of rigid winnowing, there were but nine men to ride.

    The Happy Family | Bertha Muzzy Bower

British Dictionary definitions for winnow


/ (ˈwɪnəʊ) /

  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

  1. (tr) archaic to beat (the air) with wings

  2. (tr) rare to blow upon; fan

    • a device for winnowing

    • the act or process of winnowing

Origin of winnow

Old English windwian; related to Old High German wintōn, Gothic diswinthjan, Latin ventilāre. See wind 1

Derived forms of winnow

  • winnower, noun

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