Etymology
Advertisement

staff (n.)

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."

staff (v.)

"to provide with a staff of assistants," 1859, from staff (n.). Related: Staffed; staffing.

Others are reading

Advertisement
Advertisement
Definitions of staff
1
staff (n.)
personnel who assist their superior in carrying out an assigned task;
the general relied on his staff to make routine decisions
the hospital has an excellent nursing staff
staff (n.)
a strong rod or stick with a specialized utilitarian purpose;
he walked with the help of a wooden staff
staff (n.)
the body of teachers and administrators at a school;
the dean addressed the letter to the entire staff of the university
Synonyms: faculty
staff (n.)
building material consisting of plaster and hair; used to cover external surfaces of temporary structure (as at an exposition) or for decoration;
staff (n.)
a rod carried as a symbol;
staff (n.)
(music) the system of five horizontal lines on which the musical notes are written;
Synonyms: stave
2
staff (v.)
provide with staff;
This position is not always staffed
staff (v.)
serve on the staff of;
The two men staff the reception desk
From wordnet.princeton.edu