Stave off

Stave off is an idiom that is hundreds of years old. We will examine the meaning of the common saying stave off, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

Stave off means to ward off, to avert something, to hold something at bay. For instance, one may ingest vitamin C to stave off a cold, or one may avoid answering the telephone to stave off creditors. The idiom stave off contains an archaic use of the word stave. Today, the word stave is primarily used as a noun to mean the slats around a wooden barrel. In the 1400s, stave was the plural of the word staff. By the 1600s, stave was used as a verb to mean to fend someone or something off with a staff. Related expressions are staves off, staved off, staving off.

Examples

How to stave off dementia: Women who read newspapers and men that use a mobile phone are LESS likely to develop the disease, study finds (Daily Mail)

PM urges against travel to stave off transmissions as Covid cases soar (Phnom Penh Post)

It also aptly describes the steps that two female firefighters — Kelly Martin and Lacey England — needed to take to stave off institutional sexual harassment. (Marin Independent Journal)

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