Definition of winnow in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈwɪnəʊ/


1 [with object] Blow a current of air through (grain) in order to remove the chaff: a combine cuts, threshes, and winnows the grain in one operation
More example sentences
  • As, when grain is shaken and winnowed by fans and other instruments used in the threshing of corn, the close and heavy particles are borne away and settle in one direction, and the loose and light particles in another.
  • A person in clean moccasins then ‘danced the rice’ treading on it to remove the hull and then tossing it into the air to winnow the chaff.
1.1Remove (chaff) from grain: women winnow the chaff from piles of unhusked rice
More example sentences
  • The chaff is winnowed out by the activities of millions of independent actions.
  • After all the grain have been removed from the mahangu heads this grain must be winnowed to remove the husks.
  • Also you may occasionally see her out in the fields helping her mother, Memnet, crush and winnow the grain.
separate, divide, sort out;
remove, get rid of
2Remove (people or things) from a group until only the best ones are left: guidelines that would help winnow out those not fit to be soldiers
More example sentences
  • Chris Waywell winnows the wheat from the chaff in this elusive subject.
  • The court is now able to winnow the grain from the chaff, as the Photo Production reasoning is embodied in the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977, s. 9.
  • It's easy to fall in love with particular images, even mediocre ones, but with time it also becomes easier to winnow the wheat from the chaff.
2.1Find or identify (a valuable or useful part of something): amidst this welter of confusing signals, it’s difficult to winnow out the truth
More example sentences
  • To the extent that the FDA has helped winnow the mainstream drug market down to scientifically proven treatments, it has been a help rather than hindrance.
  • Analysts attempt to winnow a few kernels of truth from a mass of falsehood in order to construct a comprehensible mosaic from a swiftly flowing stream of uncertain data.
  • His distaste for hypotheses is the natural reaction of a man in possession of a far superior instrument for winnowing truth from error.
3 [no object] literary (Of the wind) blow: the autumn wind winnowing its way through the grass
3.1 [with object] (Of a bird) fan (the air) with its wings: the emperors of the sky winnowing the air



Pronunciation: /ˈwɪnəʊə/


Old English windwian, from wind (see wind1).

  • wind from Old English:

    A word from an Indo-European root that also gave us Latin ventus, the source of vent (Late Middle English) and ventilate (Late Middle English). Winnow, windwian in Old English, is to use the wind to separate grain and chaff. To get wind of something comes from the idea of hunted animal picking up the scent of a hunter. The phrase wind of change was used by Harold Macmillan, British prime minister 1957–63, during a speech he made in Cape Town in 1960: ‘The wind of change is blowing through this continent, and, whether we like it or not, this growth of [African] national consciousness is a political fact.’ See also ill. For the differently pronounced verb see wand

Words that rhyme with winnow


For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: win¦now

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