• Distaff
  • WordNet 3.6
    • adj distaff characteristic of or peculiar to a woman "female sensitiveness","female suffrage"
    • n distaff the staff on which wool or flax is wound before spinning
    • n distaff the sphere of work by women
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Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
    • Distaff The staff for holding a bunch of flax, tow, or wool, from which the thread is drawn in spinning by hand. "I will the distaff hold; come thou and spin."
    • Distaff Used as a symbol of the holder of a distaff; hence, a woman; women, collectively. "His crown usurped, a distaff on the throne.""Some say the crozier, some say the distaff was too busy."
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Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
    • n distaff 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. The lower end of the distaff was held between the left arm and the side, and the thread, passing through and gaged by the fingers of the left hand, was drawn out and twisted by those of the right, and wound on a suspended spindle made so as to be revolved like a top, which completed the twist. In Eastern countries and in some districts of Europe, especially in Italy, the primitive distaff and spindle are still nsed; but after the introduction of the spinning-wheel into Europe, about the fifteenth century, the distaff became an attachment only of that designed for fiax, and thus continued in general use till a recent period, modified in form.
    • n distaff Figuratively, a woman, or the female sex.
    • ***
Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
    • n Distaff dis′taf the stick which holds the bunch of flax, tow, or wool in spinning
    • ***


Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
OE. distaf, dysestafe, AS. distaef,; cf. LG. diesse, the bunch of flax on a distaff, and E. dizen,. See Staff
Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
A.S. distæf, from dise = Low Ger. diesse, the bunch of flax on the staff; and stæf = Eng. staff. See Dizen.


In literature:

Next morning, between dark and dawn, the old woman took her distaff and drove the ox into the steppe to graze.
"Cossack Fairy Tales and Folk Tales" by Anonymous
Hercules holding the distaff was but a faint type of Peter bearing the roses.
"Shirley" by Charlotte Brontë
The distaff and spindle was still, as I have said, in extensive use in the district.
"My Schools and Schoolmasters" by Hugh Miller
Let us see there is a prince, for I am weary of the distaff.
"The Works of Robert Louis Stevenson - Swanston Edition Vol. 7 (of 25)" by Robert Louis Stevenson
She had gone too near the fire, she told him, and had burnt all the flax that was on her distaff.
"Old-Time Stories" by Charles Perrault
The old woman was at the door, spinning at her distaff, and as she was very deaf she had not heard the clamour.
"Tales from the Lands of Nuts and Grapes" by Charles Sellers and Others
Margarid raised her distaff and gave the signal for the combat to begin; the lowering of the distaff was to be the signal for the combat to end.
"The Gold Sickle" by Eugène Sue
After the morning repast the women take up their distaffs, or some other domestic work.
"The Poniard's Hilt" by Eugène Sue
Betushka had no distaff, so she wound the flax around her head.
"Czechoslovak Fairy Tales" by Parker Fillmore
A man who can sell his sword is fit for nothing but to sit beside a distaff.
"The Lion of Janina" by Mór Jókai

In poetry:

Unquestioning, his childish guide
He followed, as the small hand led
To where a woman, gentle-eyed,
Her distaff fed.
"The Hermit of Thebaid" by John Greenleaf Whittier
To the Love-queen Gisli pray'd,
Groan'd far icebergs tall and blue
As to Lada's distaff slim,
All their ice-locked fires flew.
"Gisli: The Chieftain" by Isabella Valancy Crawford
To the Spring-queen Gisli pray'd,
She, with mystic distaff slim,
Spun her hours of love and leaves,
Made the stony headlands dim--
"Gisli: The Chieftain" by Isabella Valancy Crawford
"Nay. Tell your dream. Then this hazel
Distaff your wife will gain."
"The thing that comes in silence," he said,
"In silence must remain."
"The Ballad Of Downal Baun" by Padraic Colum
Here Sappho weeps, Anacreon smiles,
Alcides quits the warrior's toils
For Lydia's Queen, and wields, by turns,
The club or distaff, as he burns.
"Love And Wisdom: A Vision" by Robert Alves
An old wife's distaff may knock Heroes down,
A single hair may suffocate a swain,
A crooked pin may choke the stoutest clown:
Alas! how easily may man be slain.
"A Memento Mori -- Or Remember Death" by Rees Prichard

In news:

My Pal Chrisy recorded a repeat victory in the Elmer Heubeck Distaff Handicap.
Groupie Doll Puts on a Show in Humana Distaff.
Groupie Doll is all alone at the finish of the Humana Distaff Stakes.
BLACKFOOT — Dennie Hill of Blackfoot didn't expect Tisa Dream Runne to win the Merial Distaff Regional Final horse race at the Eastern Idaho State Fair on Saturday.
Sweet Repent Takes Five in Millions Distaff.
Sweet Repent pulls away in the Sunshine Millions Distaff to record her fifth straight win.
Sweet Repent Enters 'Millions Distaff Red Hot.
Sweet Repent makes her 4-year-old debut in the Sunshine Millions Distaff.
Last weekend was an interesting one in the world of sports and it was the distaff side that provided the entertainment.
City of Edmonton Distaff H. NORTHLANDS PARK, Edmonton , AB, CAN.
Distaff directors and protags pepper Cannes lineup.
Education and distaff distinction, too.
I) at Saratoga on Aug 24 at 1 1/4 miles, has just the stout-distance lineage it takes to stand up to the rigors of the nine-furlong Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr.
LANCASTER – The Over the Wheel Gang and The Sassy Spinster will host a " Roc Day" celebration this Saturday, Jan 8, also known to some as St Distaff's Day.
Sassy Image upsets Hilda's Passion in the Humana Distaff.