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1 [staf, stahf]
noun, plural staffs for 1–5, 9; staves [steyvz] or staffs for 6–8, 10, 11.
a group of persons, as employees, charged with carrying out the work of an establishment or executing some undertaking.
a group of assistants to a manager, superintendent, or executive.
a member of a staff.
a body of officers without command authority, appointed to assist a commanding officer.
the parts of any army concerned with administrative matters, planning, etc., rather than with actual participation in combat.
those members of an organization serving only in an auxiliary or advisory capacity on a given project. Compare line1 ( def 38 ).
a stick, pole, or rod for aid in walking or climbing, for use as a weapon, etc.
a rod or wand serving as a symbol of office or authority, as a crozier, baton, truncheon, or mace.
a pole on which a flag is hung or displayed.
something that supports or sustains.
Also, stave. Music. a set of horizontal lines, now five in number, with the corresponding four spaces between them, on which music is written.
Archaic. the shaft of a spear, lance, etc.
of or pertaining to a military or organizational staff: a staff officer; staff meetings.
(of a professional person) employed on the staff of a corporation, publication, institution, or the like rather than being self-employed or practicing privately: a staff writer; staff physicians at the hospital.
verb (used with object)
to provide with a staff of assistants or workers: She staffed her office with excellent secretaries.
to serve on the staff of.
to send to a staff for study or further work (often followed by out ): The White House will staff out the recommendations before making a decision.
verb (used without object)
to hire employees, as for a new office or project (sometimes followed by up ): Next month we'll begin staffing up for the reelection campaign.

before 900; Middle English staf (noun), Old English stæf; cognate with Dutch staf, German Stab, Old Norse stafr staff, Sanskrit stabh- support

staffless, adjective
unstaffed, adjective
well-staffed, adjective

See collective noun.


one of the thin, narrow, shaped pieces of wood that form the sides of a cask, tub, or similar vessel.
a stick, rod, pole, or the like.
a rung of a ladder, chair, etc.
a verse or stanza of a poem or song.
the alliterating sound in a line of verse, as the w- sound in wind in the willows.
Music. staff1 ( def 9 ).
verb (used with object), staved or stove, staving.
to break in a stave or staves of (a cask or barrel) so as to release the wine, liquor, or other contents.
to release (wine, liquor, etc.) by breaking the cask or barrel.
to break or crush (something) inward (often followed by in ).
to break (a hole) in, especially in the hull of a boat.
to break to pieces; splinter; smash.
to furnish with a stave or staves.
to beat with a stave or staff.
verb (used without object), staved or stove, staving.
to become staved in, as a boat; break in or up.
to move along rapidly.
Verb phrases
stave off,
to put, ward, or keep off, as by force or evasion.
to prevent in time; forestall: He wasn't able to stave off bankruptcy.

1125–75; (noun) Middle English, back formation from staves; (v.) derivative of the noun

unstaved, adjective

4. See verse.


2 [staf, stahf]
a composition of plaster and fibrous material used for a temporary finish and in ornamental work, as on exposition buildings.

1890–95, Americanism; perhaps < German Stoff stuff

Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
staff1 (stɑːf)
n , pl (for senses 1,3,4) pl (for senses 5-9) staffs, staffs, staves
1.  a group of people employed by a company, individual, etc, for executive, clerical, sales work, etc
2.  (modifier) attached to or provided for the staff of an establishment: a staff doctor
3.  the body of teachers or lecturers of an educational institution, as distinct from the students
4.  the officers appointed to assist a commander, service, or central headquarters organization in establishing policy, plans, etc
5.  a stick with some special use, such as a walking stick or an emblem of authority
6.  something that sustains or supports: bread is the staff of life
7.  a pole on which a flag is hung
8.  chiefly (Brit) Usual US name: rod a graduated rod used in surveying, esp for sighting to with a levelling instrument
9.  music Also called: stave
 a.  the system of horizontal lines grouped into sets of five (four in the case of plainsong) upon which music is written. The spaces between them are also used, being employed in conjunction with a clef in order to give a graphic indication of pitch
 b.  any set of five lines in this system together with its clef: the treble staff
10.  (tr) to provide with a staff
[Old English stæf; related to Old Frisian stef, Old Saxon staf, German Stab, Old Norse stafr, Gothic Stafs; see stave]

staff2 (stɑːf)
(US) a mixture of plaster and hair used to cover the external surface of temporary structures and for decoration
[C19: of unknown origin]

stave (steɪv)
1.  any one of a number of long strips of wood joined together to form a barrel, bucket, boat hull, etc
2.  any of various bars, slats, or rods, usually of wood, such as a rung of a ladder or a crosspiece bracing the legs of a chair
3.  any stick, staff, etc
4.  a stanza or verse of a poem
5.  music
 a.  (Brit) an individual group of five lines and four spaces used in staff notation
 b.  another word for staff
vb (usually foll by in) , staves, staving, staved, stove
6.  (often foll by in) to break or crush (the staves of a boat, barrel, etc) or (of the staves of a boat) to be broken or crushed
7.  to burst or force (a hole in something)
8.  (tr) to provide (a ladder, chair, etc) with a stave or staves
9.  (Scot) (tr) to sprain (a finger, toe, etc)
[C14: back formation from staves, plural of staff1]

staves (steɪvz)
staff a plural of stave

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

O.E. stæf "walking stick, strong pole used for carrying, rod used as a weapon" (also, in plural, "letter, character, writing," cf. stæfcræft "grammar"), from P.Gmc. *stabaz (cf. O.S. staf, O.N. stafr, O.Fris. stef, M.L.G., M.Du. staf, O.H.G. stab, Ger. Stab, Goth. *stafs "element;"
M.Du. stapel "pillar, foundation"), from PIE base *stebh- "post, stem, to support, place firmly on, fasten" (cf. O.Lith. stabas "idol," Lith. stebas "staff, pillar;" O.C.S. stoboru "pillar;" Skt. stabhnati "supports;" Gk. stephein "to tie around, encircle, wreathe," staphyle "grapevine, bunch of grapes;" O.E. stapol "post, pillar"). Sense of "group of military officers that assists a commander" is attested from 1702, apparently from Ger., from the notion of the "baton" that is a badge of office or authority (a sense attested in Eng. from 1535). Meaning "group of employees (as at an office or hospital)" is first found 1837. The verb meaning "to provide with a staff of assistants" is from 1859. Staff of life "bread" is from the Biblical phrase "to break the staff of bread" (Lev. xxvi.26), transl. Heb. matteh lekhem.

"piece of a barrel," 1750, back-formation from staves (late 14c.), plural of staff (cf. leaves/leaf), possibly from O.E., but not recorded there. The verb (to stave in, past tense stove) is 1590s, originally nautical, on notion of bashing in the staves of a cask and letting
out the contents; stave off (1620s) is lit. "keep off with a staff," as of dogs.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

staff (stāf)

  1. A specific group of workers.

  2. See director.

v. staffed, staff·ing, staffs
  1. To provide with a staff of workers or assistants.

  2. To serve on the staff of.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Example sentences
The building had once been a factory for the making of barrel staves but was
  now vacant.
The spray paint did not last long, but the cracking paint did make the staves
  look a little more wooden from a distance.
Simply being served a cup of coffee staves off my depression for a whole hour.
The director staves off the end of this yarn so long as it is possible.
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