1. The slender, smooth stem of an arrow; hence, an arrow. "His sleep, his meat, his drink, is him bereft, That lean he wax, and dry as is a shaft." (Chaucer) "A shaft hath three principal parts, the stele [stale], the feathers, and the head." (Ascham)
2. The long handle of a spear or similar weapon; hence, the weapon itself; anything regarded as a shaft to be thrown or darted; as, shafts of light. "And the thunder, Winged with red lightning and impetuous rage, Perhaps hath spent his shafts." (Milton) "Some kinds of literary pursuits . . . Have been attacked with all the shafts of ridicule." (V. Knox)
The part of a candlestick which supports its branches. "Thou shalt make a candlestick of pure gold . . . His shaft, and his branches, his bowls, his knops, and his flowers, shall be of the same." (Ex. Xxv. 31)
A pole, especially a Maypole.
<machinery> " (Emerson) A solid or hollow cylinder or bar, having one or more journals on which it rests and revolves, and intended to carry one or more wheels or other revolving parts and to transmit power or motion; as, the shaft of a steam engine.
5. [Cf. G. Schacht.
Origin: OE. Shaft, schaft, AS. Sceaft; akin to D. Schacht, OHG. Scaft, G. Schaft, Dan. & Sw. Skaft handle, haft, Icel. Skapt, and probably to L. Scapus, Gr, a staff. Probably originally, a shaven or smoothed rod. Cf. Scape, Scepter, Shave.
(01 Mar 1998)
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