Word of the Day — Distaff

Previously I’d mentioned the importance of learning new words.  And the fascinating thing about language is it’s always evolving.  New words are created, meanings change, and new meanings are added.  How many words in English have only one meaning?  Not many, I would guess.

My favorite example of how a word’s meaning can change is “distaff”.  My Webster’s New World College Dictionary actually gives three meanings —

1. A staff on which fibers, as flax or wool, are wound before being spun into thread. (In other words, part of a spinning wheel.)

2. Woman’s work or concerns

3. Woman, or women in general

That’s as a noun. It’s meaning as an adjective is designating the maternal side of a family.

So it’s easy to see how, as women’s roles have changed, this word’s meaning evolved to stay relevant.

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