Definition of distaff side in US English:

distaff side


  • 1The female side of a family.

    ‘the family title could be passed down through the distaff side’
    The opposite of spear side
    • ‘Here are some idle ramblings from the distaff side of my family.’
    • ‘This page explores the life of the distaff side of families from each of three classes.’
    • ‘It was the distaff side of my descent that appealed most to me.’
    • ‘Ancestor hunters usually begin by concentrating on the paternal line of father to father to father, the line usually of the surname, but in many families the distaff side will ultimately be far more interesting.’
    1. 1.1 The female members of a group.
      ‘this fascination was not limited to the distaff side of society’
      • ‘On the distaff side, the pre-eminent talent was musical.’
      • ‘Her status as a widow is indicative of the exclusively female nature of the business, whose secrets travelled down the distaff side only and whose product treated ‘Female Complaints’ alone.’
      • ‘On the distaff side, I have already mentioned Cynthia Carss.’
      • ‘This victory was perhaps consolation for the western side that received a pasting earlier on the distaff side.’
      • ‘His sensitivity and thoughtfulness attracted him to the distaff side, instead.’
      • ‘Moreover, the sergeant major's wife, Hazel, began planning an extensive program for Academy student wives as well as the distaff side of the faculty and staff.’
      • ‘In London poverty and art coexisted, as the month extended into several years; and while loved aplenty from the distaff side, Jean-Philippe kept fantasizing about a father-figure.’
      • ‘This stress on the distaff side across genres signalled a diverting switch from years past when the mere depiction of women characters was subject to stringent regulation.’
      • ‘Outstanding among the distaff side are two actresses who are also a delight to the eye and ear.’
      • ‘On the plus side four men and just two women meant that the distaff side had definitely got the best bargain on personal space.’


Late 19th century: because spinning (see distaff) was traditionally done by women while men did the weaving.