Entries linking to packstaff
early 13c., pak, pake, "a bundle or package (of cloth, merchandise, etc.)," also "a bag or purse for carrying things," probably from a Low German word (compare Middle Dutch pac, pack "bundle," Middle Low German pak, Middle Flemish pac, attested from late 12c.) and taken into English from the wool traders in Flanders; or possibly from Old Norse pakki. All are of unknown origin. Italian pacco is a Dutch loan word; French pacque probably is from Flemish.
Especially a bundle enclosed in a wrapping and bound fast with cords. Meaning "set of persons" (usually of a low character) is from late 14c. and is older than sense of "group of instinctively herding hunting animals" (mid-15c.). Extended to "complete set of playing cards" (1590s), floating ice (1791), bundled cigarettes (1865), and submarines (1943).
Meaning "knapsack on a frame" is attested from 1916. Pack of lies is attested from 1763. Meaning "a person of low character" (usually with naughty) is by 1520s.
Old English stæf (plural stafas), "walking stick, strong pole used for carrying, rod used as a weapon, pastoral staff," probably originally *stæb, from Proto-Germanic *stab- (source also of Old Saxon staf, Old Norse stafr, Danish stav, Old Frisian stef, Middle Low German and Middle Dutch staf, Old High German stab, German Stab, Gothic *stafs "element;" Middle Dutch stapel "pillar, foundation"), from PIE root *stebh- "post, stem, to support, place firmly on, fasten" (source also of Old Lithuanian stabas "idol," Lithuanian stiebas "staff, pillar;" Old Church Slavonic stoboru "pillar;" Sanskrit stabhnati "supports;" Greek stephein "to tie around, encircle, wreathe," staphyle "grapevine, bunch of grapes;" Old English stapol "post, pillar").
As "pole from which a flag is flown," 1610s. In musical notation from 1660s. Sense of "group of military officers that assists a commander" is attested from 1702, apparently from German, from the notion of the "baton" that is a badge of office or authority (a sense attested in English from 1530s); hence staff officer (1702), staff-sergeant (1811). Meaning "group of employees (as at an office or hospital)" is first found 1837. Staff of life "bread" is from the Biblical phrase break the staff of bread meaning "cut off the supply of food" (Leviticus xxvi.26), translating Hebrew matteh lekhem.
The Old English word, in plural, was the common one used for "letter of the alphabet, character," hence "writing, literature," and many compounds having to do with writing, such as stæfcræft "grammar," stæfcræftig "lettered," stæflic "literary," stæfleahtor "grammatical error," with leahtor "vice, sin, offense."