- To winnow is to use an air current on grain in order to blow away chaff, or to separate out the best specimens.
- When you blow on grains of rice to remove chaff, this is an example of a time when you winnow.
- When you make members of a team keep competing and you eliminate the losers until you are left with only the five best players, this is an example of a time when you winnow down the players.
- to blow the chaff from (grain) by wind or a forced current of air
- to blow off (chaff) in this manner
- to blow away; scatter
- to analyze or examine carefully in order to separate the various elements; sift
- to separate out or eliminate (the poor or useless parts)
- to sort out or extract (the good or useful parts)
- Now Rare to fan with or as with the wings
Origin of winnowMiddle English winewen ; from Old English windwian, to winnow ; from wind, wind
- the act of winnowing
- an apparatus for winnowing
verbwin·nowed, win·now·ing, win·nows
- To separate the chaff from (grain) by means of a current of air.
- To blow (chaff) off or away.
- To examine closely in order to separate the good from the bad; sift: The judges winnowed a thousand essays down to six finalists.
- a. To separate or get rid of (an undesirable part); eliminate: winnowing out the errors in logic.b. To sort or select (a desirable part); extract: The investigators winnowed the facts from the testimony.
- To blow on; fan: a breeze winnowing the tall grass.
- To separate grain from chaff.
- To separate the good from the bad.
- A device for winnowing grain.
- An act of winnowing.
Origin of winnowMiddle English winnewen, alteration of windwen, from Old English windwian, from wind, wind; see wind1.
(third-person singular simple present winnows, present participle winnowing, simple past and past participle winnowed)
- (agriculture) To subject (granular material, especially food grain) to a current of air separating heavier and lighter components, as grain from chaff.
- (figuratively) To separate, sift, analyze, or test in this manner.
- They winnowed the field to twelve.
- They winnowed the winners from the losers.
- They winnowed the losers from the winners.
- (literary) To blow upon or toss about by blowing; to set in motion as with a fan or wings.
- (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".
- That which winnows or which is used in winnowing; a contrivance for fanning or winnowing grain.
From Middle English winewen, windewen, windwen, from Old English windwian (“to winnow, fan, ventilate”), from Proto-Germanic *windwōną (“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”).