Words related to staff
Old English distæf "long, cleft stick that holds flax for spinning," from dis- "bunch of flax" (cognates: Middle Low German dise, Low German diesse "a bunch of flax on a distaff;" compare bedizen) + stæf "stick, staff" (see staff (n.) ).
Figurative of "women's work" from late 14c.; a synonym in English for "a woman, the female sex, female authority in the family," at least since late 15c., presumably because spinning was typically done by women of all ranks. Hence distaff side (1848) a 19c. collective name (affecting to be older) for the female members of a family, especially with reference to relationship and descent (opposed to the spear side).
St. Distaff's Day (1640s) was Jan. 7, when "women resumed their spinning and other ordinary employments after the holidays" [OED].
late 14c., "Latin grammar, rules of Latin," from Old French gramaire "grammar; learning," especially Latin and philology, also "(magic) incantation, spells, mumbo-jumbo" (12c., Modern French grammaire), an "irregular semi-popular adoption" [OED] of Latin grammatica "grammar, philology," perhaps via an unrecorded Medieval Latin form *grammaria. The classical Latin word is from Greek grammatike (tekhnē) "(art) of letters," referring both to philology and to literature in the broadest sense, fem. of grammatikos (adj.) "pertaining to or versed in letters or learning," from gramma "letter" (see -gram). An Old English gloss of it was stæfcræft (see staff (n.)).
A much broader word in Latin and Greek; restriction of the meaning to "systematic account of the rules and usages of language" is a post-classical development. Until 16c. limited to Latin; in reference to English usage by late 16c., thence "rules of a language to which speakers and writers must conform" (1580s). Meaning "a treatise on grammar" is from 1520s. For the "magic" sense, compare gramary. The sense evolution is characteristic of the Dark Ages: "learning in general, knowledge peculiar to the learned classes," which included astrology and magic; hence the secondary meaning of "occult knowledge" (late 15c. in English), which evolved in Scottish into glamour (q.v.).
A grammar-school (late 14c.) originally was a school for learning Latin, which was begun by memorizing the grammar. In U.S. (1842) the term was put to use in the graded system for a school between primary and secondary where English grammar is one of the subjects taught. The word is attested earlier in surnames (late 12c.) such as Robertus Gramaticus, Richard le Gramarie, whence the modern surname Grammer.
also quarter-staff, 1540s (quarter-stroke "stroke with a quarterstaff" is attested from early 15c.), an old weapon formed from a stout pole, six to eight feet long (six-and-a-half sometimes is given as the standard length), tipped with iron, formerly a weapon characteristic of the English peasantry. From staff (n.); the quarter in it is of uncertain signification. According to one theory, favored by fencing manuals, etc., it likely is in reference to operation of the weapon:
It was grasped by one hand in the middle, and by the other between the middle and the end. In the attack the latter hand shifted from one quarter of the staff to the other, giving the weapon a rapid circular motion, which brought the ends on the adversary at unexpected points. [Century Dictionary]
Linguists tend to prefer an explanation from woodcutting, perhaps a reference to a cut of lumber known as a quarter, but contemporary evidence is wanting for either conjecture.
Sense of "strike the foot forcibly downwards" is from mid-14c. The meaning "impress or mark (something) with a die" is first recorded 1550s. Italian stampa "stamp, impression," Spanish estampar "to stamp, print," French étamper (13c., Old French estamper) "to stamp, impress" are Germanic loan-words. Related: Stamped; stamping. To stamp out originally was "extinguish a fire by stamping on it;" attested from 1851 in the figurative sense. Stamping ground "one's particular territory" (1821) is from the notion of animals. A stamped addressed envelope (1873) was one you enclosed in a letter to speed or elicit a reply.
A general Germanic word that apparently evolved a specialized meaning in English, though OED finds the connection unclear and suggests the later sense in English might not be the same word. Meaning "piece of thin wire driven through papers to hold them together" is attested from 1895.