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Etymology 1Edit

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From Middle English staple, from Anglo-Norman estaple, Old French estaple (market, (trading) post), from Late Latin stapula, from Middle Dutch stapel (pillar; foundation; market), ultimately from Proto-Germanic *stapulaz (post), from Proto-Indo-European *stebʰ- (post, stem). Compare staff.


staple (plural staples)

  1. (now historical) A town containing merchants who have exclusive right, under royal authority, to purchase or produce certain goods for export; also, the body of such merchants seen as a group.
    • Arbuthnot
      The customs of Alexandria were very great, it having been the staple of the Indian trade.
    • Sir Walter Scott
      For the increase of trade and the encouragement of the worthy burgesses of Woodstock, her majesty was minded to erect the town into a staple for wool.
    • 2011, Thomas Penn, Winter King, Penguin 2012, p. 73:
      Calais was one of the ‘principal treasures’ of the crown, of both strategic and economic importance. It was home to the staple, the crown-controlled marketplace for England's lucrative textile trade, whose substantial customs and tax revenues flooded into Henry's coffers.
  2. (by extension) Place of supply; source.
    • Macaulay
      Whitehall naturally became the chief staple of news. Whenever there was a rumour that any thing important had happened or was about to happen, people hastened thither to obtain intelligence from the fountain head.
  3. The principal commodity produced in a town or region.
    • Trench
      We should now say, Cotton is the great staple, that is, the established merchandize, of Manchester.
    • 1929, M. Barnard Eldershaw, A House Is Built, Chapter VIII, Section ii:
      The pastoral industry, which had weathered the severe depression of the early forties by recourse to boiling down the sheep for their tallow, and was now firmly re-established as the staple industry of the colony, was threatened once more with eclipse.
  4. A basic or essential supply.
    Rice is a staple in the diet of many cultures.
  5. A recurring topic or character.
    • 2010, The Economist, Jul-Aug 2010, p. 27:
      In most countries, rubbish makes headlines only when it is not collected, and stinking sacks lie heaped on the streets. In Britain bins are a front-page staple.
  6. Short fiber, as of cotton, sheep’s wool, or the like, which can be spun into yarn or thread.
    Tow is flax with short staple.
  7. Unmanufactured material; raw material.



staple (third-person singular simple present staples, present participle stapling, simple past and past participle stapled)

  1. (transitive) To sort according to its staple.
    to staple cotton


staple (not comparable)

  1. Relating to, or being market of staple for, commodities.
    a staple town
  2. Established in commerce; occupying the markets; settled.
    a staple trade
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Dryden to this entry?)
  3. Fit to be sold; marketable.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Swift to this entry?)
  4. Regularly produced or manufactured in large quantities; belonging to wholesale traffic; principal; chief.
    • Hallam
      wool, the great staple commodity of England

Etymology 2Edit

A box of staples

Probably from Middle English stapel (staple, pillar, post), from Old English stapol (post, pillar), from Proto-Germanic *stapulaz, from Proto-Indo-European *stebʰ- (post, stem). See also Old English steppan (to step) and Old French estaple (post). Consider also stapes (stirrup), from Latin.


staple (plural staples)

  1. A wire fastener used to secure stacks of paper by penetrating all the sheets and curling around.
  2. A wire fastener used to secure something else by penetrating and curling.
    Can you believe they use staples to hold cars together these days?
  3. A U-shaped metal fastener, used to attach fence wire or other material to posts or structures.
    The rancher used staples to attach the barbed wire to the fence-posts.
    • 1855, Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom Chapter 3
      Esther's wrists were firmly tied, and the twisted rope was fastened to a strong staple in a heavy wooden joist above, near the fire-place. Here she stood, on a bench, her arms tightly drawn over her breast. Her back and shoulders were bare to the waist.
  4. One of a set of U-shaped metal rods hammered into a structure, such as a piling or wharf, which serve as a ladder.
    Fortunately, there were staples in the quay wall, and she was able to climb out of the water.
  5. (mining) A shaft, smaller and shorter than the principal one, joining different levels.
  6. A small pit.
  7. A district granted to an abbey.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Camden to this entry?)
  8. (obsolete) A post; prop; support


staple (third-person singular simple present staples, present participle stapling, simple past and past participle stapled)

  1. (transitive) To secure with a staple.
Derived termsEdit





  1. First-person singular present of stapeln.
  2. Imperative singular of stapeln.
  3. First-person singular subjunctive I of stapeln.
  4. Third-person singular subjunctive I of stapeln.