from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A stick or cane carried as an aid in walking or climbing.
  • noun A stout stick used as a weapon; a cudgel.
  • noun A pole on which a flag is displayed; a flagstaff.
  • noun A rod or baton carried as a symbol of authority.
  • noun A rule or similar graduated stick used for testing or measuring, as in surveying.
  • noun A group of assistants to a manager, executive, or other person in authority.
  • noun A group of military officers assigned to assist a commanding officer in an executive or advisory capacity.
  • noun The personnel who carry out a specific enterprise.
  • noun Something that serves as a staple or support.
  • noun Music A set of horizontal lines and intermediate spaces used in notation to represent a sequence of pitches, in modern notation normally consisting of five lines and four spaces.
  • transitive verb To provide with a staff of workers or assistants.
  • transitive verb To serve on the staff of (an organization).
  • noun A building material of plaster and fiber used as an exterior wall covering of temporary buildings, as at expositions.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun In building, plastering in portable sheets or slabs, prepared for nailing on a frame.
  • noun A stick or pole.
  • noun A stick used as a weapon, as that used at quarter-staff; a club; a cudgel.
  • noun A stick used as an ensign of authority; a baton or scepter. Compare baton, club, mace.
  • noun A post fixed in the ground; a stake.
  • noun A pole on which to hoist and display a flag: as, a flagstaff; an ensign-staff; a jack-staff.
  • noun The pole of a vehicle; a carriage-pole.
  • noun The long handle of certain weapons, as a spear, a halberd, or a poleax.
  • noun A straight-edge for testing or truing a line or surface: as, the proof-staff used in testing the face of the stone in a grind-mill.
  • noun In surveying, a graduated stick, used in leveling. See cross-staff, Jacob's-staff, and cut under leveling-staff.
  • noun One of several instruments formerly used in taking the sun's altitude at sea: as, the fore-staff. back-staff, cross-staff. See these words.
  • noun In ship-building, a measuring and spacing rule.
  • noun The stilt of a plow.
  • noun In surgery, a grooved steel instrument having a curvature, used to guide the knife or gorget through the urethra into the bladder in the operation of lithotomy.
  • noun In architecture, same as rudenture.
  • noun Something which upholds or supports; a support; a prop.
  • noun A round of a ladder.
  • noun A body of assistants or executive officers.
  • noun A letter of the alphabet. See etymology of book.
  • noun A line; a verse; also, a stanza.
  • noun In musical notation, a set of five horizontal lines on which notes are placed so as to indicate the pitch of intended tones.
  • noun In heraldry, same as fissure,5.
  • noun Plaster of Paris mixed, in water, with some cement, glycerin, and dextrine: used as a building material.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun A long piece of wood; a stick; the long handle of an instrument or weapon; a pole or stick, used for many purposes
  • noun A stick carried in the hand for support or defense by a person walking; hence, a support; that which props or upholds.
  • noun A pole, stick, or wand borne as an ensign of authority; a badge of office.
  • noun A pole upon which a flag is supported and displayed.
  • noun rare The round of a ladder.
  • noun A series of verses so disposed that, when it is concluded, the same order begins again; a stanza; a stave.
  • noun (Mus.) The five lines and the spaces on which music is written; -- formerly called stave.
  • noun (Mech.) An arbor, as of a wheel or a pinion of a watch.
  • noun (Surg.) The grooved director for the gorget, or knife, used in cutting for stone in the bladder.
  • noun (Mil.) An establishment of officers in various departments attached to an army, to a section of an army, or to the commander of an army. The general's staff consists of those officers about his person who are employed in carrying his commands into execution. See État Major.
  • noun Hence: A body of assistants serving to carry into effect the plans of a superintendent or manager; sometimes used for the entire group of employees of an enterprise, excluding the top management.
  • noun (Surv.) a single straight rod or staff, pointed and iron-shod at the bottom, for penetrating the ground, and having a socket joint at the top, used, instead of a tripod, for supporting a compass.


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English staf, from Old English stæf.]

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Perhaps from German Stoff, stuff.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Old English stæf, from Proto-Germanic *stabaz. Cognate with Dutch staf, German Stab, Swedish stav. Sense of "group of military officers that assists a commander", attested from 1702, is influenced from German Stab.



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