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at half-mast

 and at half-staff
[of a flag] halfway up or down its flagpole. The flag was flying at half-mast because the general had died. Americans fly flags at half-staff on Memorial Day.

Bread is the staff of life.

Prov. Food is necessary for people to survive. Miranda likes to give money to charities that feed people. "Other services are important," she reasons, "but bread is the staff of life." Jill: Want to go to lunch with us, Bob? Bob: No. I must work on my novel while inspiration lasts. Jill: Don't forget to eat. Bread is the staff of life, you know.
See also: bread, life, of, staff

the staff of life

  (literary)
a food such as bread that is eaten in large amounts by a lot of people Bread is the staff of life, which is why we only use the finest organic flour to make ours.
See also: life, of, staff

at half-mast

Halfway up or down, as in The church bells tolled off and on all day and the flags were at half-mast. This term refers to placing a flag halfway up a ship's mast or flagpole, a practice used as a mark of respect for a person who has died or, at sea, as a distress signal. Occasionally the term is transferred to other objects, as in Tom's pants were at half-mast as he raced around the playground, or The puppy's tail was at half-mast. [First half of 1600s]

staff of life

A staple or necessary food, especially bread. For example, Rice is the staff of life for a majority of the earth's people. This expression, which uses staff in the sense of "a support," was first recorded in 1638.
See also: life, of, staff
References in classic literature ?
The traveller put forth his staff and touched her withered neck with what seemed the serpent's tail.
I may not spare you my arm, Goody Cloyse; but here is my staff, if you will.
He had cast up his eyes in astonishment, and, looking down again, beheld neither Goody Cloyse nor the serpentine staff, but his fellow-traveller alone, who waited for him as calmly as if nothing had happened.
When he was appointed Registrar at Thomas's I hadn't a chance of getting on the staff.
Nevertheless," said Robin to himself, "I will baste thy hide right merrily, my good fellow"; then, aloud, "Lo, here is my good staff, lusty and tough.
cried the stranger, twirling his staff above his head, betwixt his fingers and thumb, until it whistled again.
Then Will and a score of yeomen leaped upon the stranger, but though they sprang quickly they found him ready and felt him strike right and left with his stout staff, so that, though he went down with press of numbers, some of them rubbed cracked crowns before he was overcome.
He answered the staff captain's question by a disapproving shake of his head.
You speak to the colonel about this nasty business before other officers," continued the staff captain, "and Bogdanich" (the colonel was called Bogdanich) "shuts you up.
I did not expect this of you," said the staff captain seriously and severely.
With this, he waved his staff with the jeweled ball, and before them instantly appeared a tea-table, set with linen and pretty dishes, and on the table were the very things each had wished for.
The staff of the Cambridge Observatory place themselves entirely at their disposal in respect of all questions of theoretical astronomy; and herewith add their congratulations to those of all the rest of America.
To this end, he sat down on the ground before the door, and putting his staff across his knees in case of alarm or surprise, summoned Grip to dinner.
When he perceived them, however, which he did when they were within some fifty yards of him, he jumped hastily up, and ordering Grip within doors, stood with both hands on his staff, waiting until he should know whether they were friends or foes.
cried Barnaby, putting the raven on the ground, and shouldering his staff.