is from the verb to weave. (Saxon wefan, Danish vaevc, German weben, whence weib, a woman, one who works at the distaff.) Woman is called the distaff. Hence Dryden calls Anne “a distaff on the throne.” While a girl was spinning her wedding clothes she was simply a spinster; but when this task was done, and she was married, she became a wife, or one who had already woven her allotted task.
Alfred, in his will, speaks of his male and female descendants as those of the spear-side and those of the spindle-side, a distinction still observed by the Germans; and hence the effigies on graves of spears and spindles.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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