Tuesday, October 18, 2011


distaff [ˈdɪstæf] n.

1.) A cleft staff about 3 feet long, on which, in the ancient mode of spinning, wool or flax was wound. It was held under the left arm, and the fibres of the material were drawn from it through the fingers of the left hand, and twisted spirally by the forefinger and thumb of the right, with the aid of the suspended spindle, round which the thread, as it was twisted or spun, was wound.
2.) The staff or "rock" of a hand spinning-wheel, upon which the flax to be spun is placed.
3.) As the type of women's work or occupation.
4.) Hence, symbolically, for the female sex, female authority or dominion; also, the female branch of a family, the "spindle-side" as opposed to the "spear-side"; a female heir.
5.) attrib. and Comb., as distaff-business, distaff-right, distaff-woman; distaff side, the female branch of a house or family; distaff's or St. Distaff's day, the day after Twelfth Day or the Feast of the Epiphany, on which day (Jan. 7) women resumed their spinning and other ordinary employments after the holidays; also called rock-day; distaff cane, a species of reed, the stems or canes of which are used for distaffs, arrows, fishing-rods, etc.; distaff thistle, a name of Carthamus lanatus (Cirsium lanatum), from its woolly flowering stems (O.E.D. 2nd Ed.).

Etymology: Middle English distaf, from Old English distæf: dis-, bunch of flax + stæf, staff.

"Women predominate not only, I think, because of matriarchal considerations, or claims to divine paternity, but also because Boiotian tradition leans in every way toward the distaff side. Yet, through entry and identification of the heroine 'like her who...,' one can file the heroes too, and their exploits, and so compose an account of the heroic age using a method different from Homer's and scarcely derived from him" (Hesiod: The Works and Days, Theogony, The Shield of Herakles, Richmond Lattimore, 1959).

(Hésiode et la Muse, Gustave Moreau, 1891)


Mai Yang said...

ahh..I got it now. haha!
Honestly, it's hard for me to understand this things but since there's an example, that made things easier =))

Meri said...

hmm- not too sure how I'll end up using this one in everyday life :)

meandmythinkingcap said...

I agree with Meri, words from this week arent exactly my favorite.
I like to use buzz and hip words which could make me look cool.
And about comment, I would have preferred if you had asked me what I meant rather than deleting it, since I wouldnt know whether I commented or missed.
And I take that you found other comments of mine sensible as compliment, because many times I myself dont find my comments sensible not just my comments but my posts too. Still love your blog :)

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Pretty archaic these days. Thanks, Feminism!

Crisalys said...

I really like these. Thanks for sharing, my english vocabulary just keeps expanding.

akissfromthepast said...

intresting words and very nice picture :)
have a nice day :D

Melanie said...

Great word...now how to use??? i will make it work!

D4 said...

I like this because it's flexible.

AllenTesch said...

Well, at least now I'll know what she's talking about if a feminist pulls this word out. (sorta)

Sick by Trend said...

hey!! sorry for the late answer! yess, I changed the header.. I will do it each 3 months :D How are u?



Michael Westside said...

the examples just made it all more confusing

MRanthrope said...

so many examples to read, my eyes are still adjusting from waking up!

Sarah said...

I feel more confused than enlightened! Damn..

Henry said...

I got this from the TV tropes term "distaff counterpart"

Hasidic Plumber said...

So a distaff is the thingy that messed up the sleeping beauty on the disney movie. The thingy with the cursed needle and all that. Right?

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