Definition of distaff in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈdɪstɑːf/


1A stick or spindle on to which wool or flax is wound for spinning.
Example sentences
  • Then she brought forth a sack of carded wool, and three distaffs, and brought this all over to where we sat.
  • Gnarled and veined like branches of an old olive tree, her hands rested in her lap wrapped around distaff and spindle, paused for the moment from spinning wool from the basket at her feet.
  • Often the prepared wool was put on a distaff to make it easier to spin.
2 [as modifier] Of or concerning women: marriage is still the passport to distaff power
More example sentences
  • And considering that the Guthrie's new complex on the river will present more opportunities to do new work, we can, without undue optimism, expect to see an increase in distaff dramatists in the Guthrie's future.
  • A furious effort is under way to develop pills, pumps, patches and gels: distaff versions of the enormously profitable Viagra.
  • While I'm dishing out the demerits, lest you think it was all distaff damage, know that my father went through a rather extraordinary ice-cream phase.


the distaff side

The female side of a family: the family title could be passed down through the distaff side The opposite of the spear side.


Old English distæf: the first element is apparently related to Middle Low German dise, disene 'distaff, bunch of flax'; the second is staff1. sense 2 arose because spinning was traditionally done by women.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: dis|taff

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