Definitions

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

  • noun A staff with a metal tip, carried as a sign of office.
  • noun An officer, such as a bailiff or constable, who carries a tipstaff.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A staff tipped or capped with metal; a staff having a crown or cap, formerly the badge of a constable or sheriff's officer.
  • noun An officer bearing a tipstaff; especially, in England, a sheriff's officer charged with the execution of laws against debtors.

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

  • noun A staff tipped with metal.
  • noun An officer who bears a staff tipped with metal; a constable.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A ceremonial staff, with a metal tip, carried by a constable or bailiff etc as a sign of office
  • noun An officer, of a court etc. who carries such a staff

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun staff with a metal tip carried as a sign of office by e.g. a bailiff or constable

Etymologies

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

[Alteration of tipped staff.]

Examples

  • In some places a sheriff's officer is called a tipstaff, the name being derived from the custom of such officers bearing a

    Civil Government of Virginia

  • Especially if you put a metal spike on each end (see “tipstaff” in England, as carried by Medieval cops).

    When What We Think We Know, Is Actually Wrong at SF Novelists

  • As Mr. Pickwick said this, he got into the coach which had by this time arrived, followed by the tipstaff.

    The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club

  • Mr. Pickwick sat opposite the tipstaff; and the tipstaff sat with his hat between his knees, whistling a tune, and looking out of the coach window.

    The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club

  • Here they stopped, while the tipstaff delivered his papers; and here

    The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club

  • The usual forms having been gone through, the body of Samuel Pickwick was soon afterwards confided to the custody of the tipstaff, to be by him taken to the warden of the Fleet Prison, and there detained until the amount of the damages and costs in the action of Bardell against Pickwick was fully paid and satisfied.

    The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club

  • That is the signal when their privileges are invaded by tipstaff or bailiff; and at the blast of the horn they all swarm out to the rescue, as bees when their hive is disturbed. —

    The Fortunes of Nigel

  • During which time there made forth to us a small boat, with about eight persons in it, whereof one of them had in his hand a tipstaff of a yellow cane, tipped at both ends with blue, who made aboard our ship, without any show of distrust at all.

    The New Atlantis

  • As we were leaving the court, a tipstaff came up to Joe Punchard, and formally arrested him as a runaway 'prentice; at the instance,

    Humphrey Bold A Story of the Times of Benbow

  • During which time there made forth to us a small boat, with about eight persons in it; whereof one of them had in his hand a tipstaff* of a yellow cane, tipped at both ends with blue, who came aboard our ship, without any show of distrust at all.

    English Literature for Boys and Girls

Comments

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  • Officer, said I to the son of Nunez, since I have got my diamond, I do not much care about anything else. It would be no pleasure to me to be the means of pain to that poor woman; I want not the death of a sinner. Out upon you, answered he, you set up for humanity! you would make a bad tipstaff.

    - Lesage, The Adventures of Gil Blas of Santillane, tr. Smollett, bk 2 ch. 4

    September 13, 2008