staff1 / staf/ • n. 1. [treated as sing. or pl.] all the people employed by a particular organization: a staff of 600 hospital staff were not to blame. ∎ the teachers in a school or college: [as adj.] a staff meeting. 2. [treated as sing. or pl.] a group of officers assisting an officer in command of an army formation or administration headquarters. ∎ (usu. Staff) short for staff sergeant.3. a long stick used as a support when walking or climbing or as a weapon. ∎ a rod or scepter held as a sign of office or authority. ∎ short for flagstaff. ∎ Surveying a rod for measuring distances or heights.4. (pl. staves / stāvz/ ) (also stave) Mus. a set of five parallel lines and the spaces between them, on which notes are written to indicate their pitch.• v. [tr.] (usu. be staffed) provide (an organization, business, etc.) with staff: legal advice centers are staffed by volunteer lawyers | [as adj.] (staffed) all units are fully staffed. PHRASES: the staff of life a staple food, esp. bread.staff2 • n. a mixture of plaster of Paris, cement, or a similar material, used for temporary building work.
A. stick, pole, rod OE. (later in many spec. uses);
B. †letter OE.; †line of verse XV; †stanza XVI; (mus.) set of horizontal lines for the placing of notes XVII;
C. body of officers or persons employed XVIII. OE. stæf = OS. (Du.) staf, OHG. stap (G. stab), ON. stafr :- Gmc. *stabaz. C is of Continental orig.; cf. Du. staf, G. stab, the use being prob. developed from the sense wand of office, ‘baton’.
Hence staff vb. provide with a staff of officers, etc. XIX.
the staff of life bread; the usage probably derives from the biblical translation of a Hebrew phrase meaning ‘cut off the supply of food’, as in Leviticus 26:26. The use of staff of life to mean bread is recorded from the mid 17th century.
See also bear and ragged staff.