Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

What does staple mean in phrases? Examples:

Is it roughly something like "main" or "basic"?

share|improve this question

1 Answer 1

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Staple can be both a noun and an adjective. In these two sentences, it's a noun, unlike main and basic, which are adjectives. In the case of the first sentence, it's 'the thing chiefly “dealt in”; the principal object of employment, thought, or discourse. Sometimes . . . used for: The chief component element, the "substance", "bulk".' In the case of the second, it's 'a principal industrial product of a country, town, or district; occasionally the commodity principally dealt in by a person or class of persons. Also, the principal or basic food on which a community lives.' Both definitions are from the Oxford English Dictionary.

share|improve this answer
Likewise the New Oxford English Dictionary: a main or important element of something, esp. of a diet (staple^2 definition 1). –  zpletan Oct 16 '11 at 22:20

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.