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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.

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staff, in musical notation, a set of horizontal lines upon and between which notes are written so as to determine their relative pitch, and in connection with a clef, their absolute pitch. Staffs with several lines survive from the late 9th cent., the lines denoting only pitches. In early attempts at the notation of plainsong, a single line was drawn, with neumes placed above and below it, giving a rough idea of the relative pitches of the tones. Guido d'Arezzo, in the 11th cent., used several lines and put letters on certain of them to indicate their pitch, thus foreshadowing the use of the clef (see musical notation). Four-line staffs proved adequate for plainsong notation and are still employed for that purpose. In 16th-century keyboard music, staffs of six or seven lines were often employed, but later the five-line staff, with ledger lines for pitches outside the range provided for by the staff, became conventional.

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staff pl. staves (now chiefly literary exc. in senses in which STAVE is now the usual sg.), staffs (the only form in C).
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.

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staffbarf, behalf, calf, chaff, coif, giraffe, Graf, graph, half, laugh, scarf, scrum half, staff, strafe, wing half •headscarf • mooncalf • bar graph •telegraph • polygraph • epigraph •serigraph • cardiograph • radiograph •spectrograph • micrograph •lithograph • heliograph •choreograph • tachograph •stylograph • holograph • seismograph •chronograph, monograph •phonograph • paragraph •cinematograph • pictograph •autograph • photograph • flagstaff •jackstaff • distaff • tipstaff • epitaph •pikestaff • cenotaph

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staff (stave, plural staves). The system of parallel lines on and between which the notes are written, from which mus. is played, the pitch being determined by the clef written at the beginning of the staff. Normally of 5 lines, but plainsong uses a staff of 4 lines. In medieval tablature a 6- or even 7-line staff was used. ‘Staff notation’ means ordinary notation as distinct from Tonic Sol-fa, etc. See also great staff.

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staff a staff (with the child Jesus) is the emblem of St Christopher.
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.

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a body of servants, officers, nurses, or employees, collectively ; a pair of cocks, three hawks, or a bundle of teasels. See also retinue.

Examples : staff of cocks (two), 1688; of hawks (three), 1688; of nurses; of officers; of servantsBrewer ; of teasels, 1794.