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Disʹtaff

.

A woman. Properly the staff from which the flax was drawn in spinning. The allusion is to the ancient custom of women, who spun from morning to night. (See Spinster.)

“The crown of France never falls to the distaff.”—Kersey.

To have tow on the distaff. To have work in hand. Froissart says, “Il aura en bref temps autres estoupes en sa quenouille.”        

“He haddë more tow on his distaf

Than Gerveys knew.”

2


Chaucer: Canterbury Tales, 3,772.

St. Distaff’s Day. The 7th of January. So called because the Christmas festival terminated on Twelfth Day, and on the day following the women returned to their distaffs or daily occupations. It is also called Rock Day, a distaff being called a rock. “In old times they used to spin with rocks.” (Aubrey: Wilts.)        

“Give St. Distaff all the right,

Then give Christmas sport good night,

And next morrow every one

To his own vocatiön.” (1657.)

“What! shall a woman with a rock drive thee away?

Fye on thee, traitor!”

3


Digby: Mysteries, p. 11.

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Entry taken from Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, edited by the Rev. E. Cobham Brewer, LL.D. and revised in 1895.

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Disease
Dished
Dish-washer (A)
Dismal
Dismas (St.)
Disney Professor
Disorder
Dispensation
Dispute
Dissolute
Distaff
Distaffina
Distemper
Distinguished Member of the Humane Society
Distraction
Distrait (French)
Dithyrambic
Dittany
Ditto
Dittoes (A suit of)
Divan (Arabic and Persian, diwan)

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Plough Monday
St. Distaff