What Does the Word “Distaff” Mean and How Did the Term For the Female Side of the Family Originate?

In medieval times the marriage bargain held men responsible for the physical labor outside of the home, while the women provided nourishment and comfort inside.

A distaff was a rod used to hold wool during weaving and became a symbol of honor and respect to the value of a woman’s work toward the family’s well-being.

The equal to the female “distaff-side” is the male “spear-side.”

The word distaff comes from the Low German word “dis”, which means a bunch of flax, connected with staff.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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