AskDefine | Define winnow

The Collaborative Dictionary

Winnow \Win"now\, v. i. To separate chaff from grain. [1913 Webster] Winnow not with every wind. --Ecclus. v.
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Winnow \Win"now\ (w[i^]n"n[-o]), v. t. [imp. & p. p. Winnowed (w[i^]n"n[-o]d); p. pr. & vb. n. Winnowing.] [OE. windewen, winewen, AS. windwian; akin to Goth. winpjan (in comp.), winpi-skauro a fan, L. ventilare to fan, to winnow; cf. L. wannus a fan for winnowing, G. wanne, OHG. wanna. [root]131. See Wind moving air, and cf. Fan., n., Ventilate.] [1913 Webster]
To separate, and drive off, the chaff from by means of wind; to fan; as, to winnow grain. [1913 Webster] Ho winnoweth barley to-night in the threshing floor. --Ruth. iii.
[1913 Webster]
To sift, as for the purpose of separating falsehood from truth; to separate, as bad from good. [1913 Webster] Winnow well this thought, and you shall find This light as chaff that flies before the wind. --Dryden. [1913 Webster]
To beat with wings, or as with wings.[Poetic] [1913 Webster] Now on the polar winds; then with quick fan Winnows the buxom air. --Milton. [1913 Webster]

Word Net

winnow n : the act of separating grain from chaff; "the winnowing was done by women" [syn: winnowing, sifting]


1 separate from chaff; "She stood there winnowing grain all day in the field" [syn: fan]
2 blow on; "The wind was winnowing her hair"
3 treat by exposure to a current of air so that waste matter is eliminated; "winnow grain"
4 remove by a current of air; "winnow chaff"

Moby Thesaurus

aerate, air, air out, air-condition, air-cool, airify, analyze, appraise, assess, bolt, catalog, categorize, choose out, clarifier, clarify, class, classify, clear, colander, comb, contradistinguish, cordon, cordon off, cradle, cribble, cross-ventilate, cull, cull out, decide between, decrassify, demarcate, demark, depurate, differentiate, discriminate, distill, distinguish, divide, draw the line, edulcorate, elute, essentialize, evaluate, excerpt, extract, factor, fan, filter, filtrate, freshen, gauge, ghettoize, gin, glean, group, handpick, identify, insulate, isolate, keep apart, keep aside, lay aside, leach, lixiviate, lixiviator, make a selection, mark the interface, oxygenate, oxygenize, percolate, percolator, pick, pick out, purifier, purify, put aside, quarantine, rectify, refine, refiner, refinery, refresh, riddle, rocker, ruffle, screen, screen out, seclude, segregate, select, separate, set a limit, set apart, set aside, set off, sever, severalize, sieve, sieve out, sift, sift out, sifter, single out, sort, sort out, spiritualize, split hairs, strain, strainer, subdivide, sublimate, sublime, subtilize, thrash, thrash out, thresh, try, ventilate, weigh, wind, winnowing basket, winnowing fan, winnowing machine




  1. To free or separate grain or the like from chaff or refuse matter, usually by means of wind.
  2. To move about with a flapping motion, as of wings; to flutter.
  3. To fan; set in motion by means of wind; specifically, to expose (grain) to a current of air in order to separate and drive off chaff, refuse particles, etc.
  4. To blow upon; to toss about by blowing.
  5. To separate, expel, or disperse by or as by fanning or blowing; to sift or weed out; to separate or distinguish, as one thing from another.
  6. To set in motion or vibration; to beat as with a fan or wings.
  7. To wave to and fro; to flutter; to flap.
  8. To pursue or accomplish with a waving or flapping motion, as of wings.
  9. Figuratively, to subject to a process analogous to the winnowing of grain; to separate into parts according to kind; to sift; to analyze or scrutinize carefully; to examine; to test.


  1. That which winnows or which is used in winnowing; a contrivance for fanning or winnowing grain.



winnow in German: Windsichten
winnow in French: Van (agriculture)
winnow in Dutch: Wan (mand)
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