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A stick or spindle on to which wool or flax is wound for spinning; in extended usage, used as modifier, as in distaff side ’the female side of a family’ to mean of or concerning women. The word is recorded from Old English (in form distæf); the first element is apparently related to Middle Low German dise, disene ‘distaff, bunch of flax’, the second is staff. The extended sense arose because spinning was traditionally done by women.

St Distaff's day the day after Twelfth Day or the Feast of the Epiphany, on which day (7 January) women resumed their spinning and other ordinary employments after the holidays.

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