Entries linking to pikestaff
early 13c., pik, pyk, "pointed tip or spike on a staff, pole, weapon, etc.," collateral (long-vowel) form of pic (source of pick (n.1)), from Old English piic "pointed object, pickaxe," which is perhaps from a Celtic source (compare Gaelic pic "pickaxe," Irish pice "pike, pitchfork"). The word probably has been influenced by, or is partly from, Old French pic "sharp point or spike," itself perhaps from Germanic (see pike (n.1)), Old Norse pic, and Middle Dutch picke, pecke. Pike, pick (n.1), and pitch (n.1) formerly were used indifferently in English.
From c. 1400 as "a sharp, pointed mountain or summit." The pike position in diving, gymnastics, etc., is attested by 1928, perhaps on the notion of "tapering to a point."
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").
This is reconstructed to be 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). The meaning "group of employees (as at an office or hospital)" is attested by 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."
updated on June 08, 2020