from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition
- n. A staff that holds on its cleft end the unspun flax, wool, or tow from which thread is drawn in spinning by hand.
- n. An attachment for a spinning wheel that serves this purpose.
- n. Work and concerns traditionally considered important to women.
- n. Women considered as a group.
from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License
- adj. of, relating to, or characteristic of women
- adj. referring to the maternal side of a family
- n. a device to which a bundle of natural fibres (often wool, flax, or cotton) are attached for temporary storage, before being drawn off gradually to spin thread. A traditional distaff is a staff with flax fibres tied loosely to it (see Etymology), but modern distaffs are often made of cords weighted with beads, and attached to the wrist.
- n. the part of a spinning wheel from which fibre is drawn to be spun
- n. anything traditionally done by or considered of importance to women only
- n. women considered as a group
from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English
- n. The staff for holding a bunch of flax, tow, or wool, from which the thread is drawn in spinning by hand.
- n. Used as a symbol of the holder of a distaff; hence, a woman; women, collectively.
from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. In the earliest method of spinning, the staff, usually a cleft stick about 3 feet long, on which was wound a quantity of wool, cotton, or flax to be spun.
- n. Figuratively, a woman, or the female sex.
from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.
- adj. characteristic of or peculiar to a woman
- n. the sphere of work by women
- n. the staff on which wool or flax is wound before spinning
Middle English distaf, from Old English distæf : dis-, bunch of flax + stæf, staff.(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English distaf, from Old English distæf ("distaff"), from Old English *dis (cognate with Middle Low German dise ("bunch of flax")) + Old English stæf ("staff"). (Wiktionary)