Staff. n.s. plur. staves. [ꞅꞇæꝼ, Saxon; staff, Danish; staf, Dutch.]
- A stick with which a man supports himself in walking.
It much would please him,
That of his fortunes you would make a staff
To lean upon. Shakes.p. Ant. and Cleopatra.
Grant me and my people the benefit of thy chastisements, that thy rod as well as thy staff may comfort us. K. Charles.
It is probable that he, who had met whole armies in battle, should now throw away his staff, out of fear of a dog. Broome.
- A prop; a support.
Hope is a lover's staff; walk hence with that,
And manage it against despairing thoughts. Shakespeare.
The boy was the very staff of my age, my very prop. Shak.
- A stick used as a weapon; a club; the handle of an edged or pointed weapon. A club properly includes the notion of weight, and the staff of length.
I cannot strike at wretched kernes, whose arms
Are hir'd to bear their staves. Shakesp. Macbeth.
He that bought the skin ran greater risque than t' other that sold it, and had the worse end of the staff. L'Estrange.
With forks and staves the felon they pursue. Dryden.
- Any long piece of wood.
He forthwith from the glitt'ring staff unfurl'd
Th' imperial ensign. Milton.
To his single eye, that in his forehead glar'd
Like a full moon, or a broad burnish'd shield,
A forky staff we dext'rously apply'd,
Which, in the spacious socket turning round,
Scoopt out the big round gelly from its orb. Addison.
- An ensign of an office; a badge of authority.
Methought this staff, mine office-badge in court,
Was broke in twain. Shakesp. Henry VI.
- [Stef, Islandick] A stanza; a series of verses regularly disposed, so as that, when the stanza is concluded, the same order begins again.
Cowley found out that no kind of staff is proper for an heroick poem, as being all too lyrical; yet though he wrote in couplets, where rhyme is freer from constraint, he affects half verses. Dryden.