Definition for STAFF

STAFF, n. [plur. Staffs. Sax. stæf, a stick or club, a pole, a crook, a prop or support, a letter, an epistle; stæfn, stefn, the voice; D. staf, a staff, scepter or crook; staaf, a bar; G. stab, a staff, a bar, a rod; Dan. stab, stav, id.; stavn, stævn, the prow of a ship, that is, a projection, that which shoots out; Fr. douve. The primary sense is to thrust, to shoot. See Stab.]

  1. A stick carried in the hand for support or defense by a person walking; hence, a support; that which props or upholds. Bread is proverbially called the staff of life. The boy was the very staff of my age. – Shak. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. – Ps. xxiii.
  2. A stick or club used as a weapon. With forks and staffs the felon they pursue. – Dryden.
  3. A long piece of wood; a stick; the long handle of an instrument; a pole or stick, used for many purposes.
  4. The five lines and the spaces on which music is written.
  5. An ensign of authority; a badge of office; as, a constable's staff. – Shak. Hayward.
  6. The round of a ladder. – Brown.
  7. A pole erected in a ship to hoist and display a flag; called a flag-staff. There is also a jack-staff, and an ensign-staff.
  8. [Fr. estafette, a courier or express; Dan. staffette; It. staffetta, an express; staffiere, a groom or servant; staffa, a stirrup; Sp. estafeta, a courier, a general past-office; estafero, a foot-boy, a stable-boy, an errand-boy; Port. estafeta, an express. This word seems to be formed from It. staffa, a stirrup, whence staffiere, a stirrup-holder or groom, whence a servant or horseman sent express.] In military affairs, an establishment of officers in various departments, attached to an army, or to the commander of an army. The staff includes officers not of the line, as adjutants, quarter-masters, chaplain, surgeon, &c. The staff is the medium of communication from the commander in chief to every department of an army.
  9. [Ice. stef.] A stanza; a series of verses so disposed that when it is concluded, the same order begins again. Cowley found out that no kind of staff is proper for a heroic poem, as being all too lyrical. – Dryden.

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