Definitions

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A wooden pin stuck on the sides of a bedstead, to prevent the bedclothes from slipping on either side.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. “A wooden pin stuck anciently on the sides of the bedstead, to hold the clothes from slipping on either side.”

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A staff or stick formerly used in some way about a bed, and frequently serving as a weapon, in which sense the word most commonly occurs. Specifically—
  • n. [Used in the colloquial phrase in the twinkling of a bed-staff, in which, when bedstaff became obsolete, bedpost was substituted, depriving the phrase of its literal force in modern use.

Etymologies

bed +‎ staff (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Alas, his whole estate and life depended on his hatchet; by his hatchet he earned many a fair penny of the best woodmongers or log-merchants among whom he went a-jobbing; for want of his hatchet he was like to starve; and had death but met with him six days after without a hatchet, the grim fiend would have mowed him down in the twinkling of a bedstaff.

    Five books of the lives, heroic deeds and sayings of Gargantua and his son Pantagruel

  • And at that I told him, not seeing how I could keep it back, the matter of my former affidavit and of the bedstaff in the dispensing-room, and said that a house where such things happened was no place for me.

    A Thin Ghost and Others

  • There is one very obscure part in this statement, namely, the reference to the former affidavit and the matter of the bedstaff.

    A Thin Ghost and Others

  • When I was in another service I remember to have spoken to my fellow-servants about the matter of the bedstaff, but I am sure

    A Thin Ghost and Others

  • I did what you did not do -- what you are not doing even now; I put two and two together in the twinkling of a bedstaff.

    The Grafters

  • See how we trifle! but one can't pass one's youth too amusingly for one must grow old, and that in England; two most serious circumstances, either of which makes people gray in the twinkling of a bedstaff; for know you there is not a country upon earth where there are so many old fools and so few young ones.

    The Letters of Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford — Volume 1

  • "Marry, she can pluck a chick, and roll pastry, and use a bedstaff, and scour a floor, and sew, and the like.

    The White Rose of Langley A Story of the Olden Time

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  • One of the four standards that support a bedstead or the canopy over a bedstead, or (obsolete usage) "a wooden pin stuck anciently on the sides of the bedstead, to hold the clothes from slipping on either side."

    April 4, 2008