From Middle English winewen, windewen, windwen, from Old English windwian (“to winnow, fan, ventilate”), from Proto-Germanic *windwōną, *winþijaną (“to throw about, winnow”), from Proto-Indo-European *wē- (“to winnow, thresh”). Cognate with Middle High German winden (“to winnow”), Icelandic vinsa (“to pick out, weed”), Latin vannus (“a winnowing basket”). See fan, van.
- (transitive, agriculture) To subject (granular material, especially food grain) to a current of air separating heavier and lighter components, as grain from chaff.
- 1998, Sid Perkins, “Thin Skin”, in Science News, volume 165, number 1, page 11:
- ...wind began to winnow the river delta's dried sediments.
- (transitive, figuratively) To separate, sift, analyze, or test by separating items having different values.
- They winnowed the field to twelve.
- They winnowed the winners from the losers.
- They winnowed the losers from the winners.
- (transitive, literary) To blow upon or toss about by blowing; to set in motion as with a fan or wings.
- 1834, Letitia Elizabeth Landon, Francesca Carrara, volume 2, page 206:
- The light snow lay on the narrow and winding path before them, pure as if just fresh winnowed by the wind.
- 1872 Elliott Coues, Key to North American Birds
- Gulls average much larger than terns, with stouter build; the feet are larger and more ambulatorial, the wings are shorter and not so thin; the birds winnow the air in a steady course unlike the buoyant dashing flight of their relatives.
- (intransitive, literary, dated) To move about with a flapping motion, as of wings; to flutter.
- Used with adverb or preposition "down"; see also winnow down.
- Used with adverbs or prepositions "through", "away", and "out".
winnow (plural winnows)
- That which winnows or which is used in winnowing; a contrivance for fanning or winnowing grain.
- The act of winnowing