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[peyl] /peɪl/
adjective, paler, palest.
  1. light-colored or lacking in color:
    a pale complexion; his pale face; a pale child.
  2. lacking the usual intensity of color due to fear, illness, stress, etc.:
    She looked pale and unwell when we visited her in the nursing home.
of a low degree of chroma, saturation, or purity; approaching white or gray:
pale yellow.
not bright or brilliant; dim:
the pale moon.
faint or feeble; lacking vigor:
a pale protest.
verb (used without object), paled, paling.
to become pale:
to pale at the sight of blood.
to seem less important, remarkable, etc., especially when compared with something else:
Platinum is so rare that even gold pales in comparison.
verb (used with object)
to make pale.
Origin of pale1
1250-1300; Middle English < Middle French < Latin pallidus pallid
Related forms
palely, adverb
paleness, noun
Can be confused
pale, pail.
pale, pall, pallor.
1. Pale, pallid, wan imply an absence of color, especially from the human countenance. Pale implies a faintness or absence of color, which may be natural when applied to things, the pale blue of a violet, but when used to refer to the human face usually means an unnatural and often temporary absence of color, as arising from sickness or sudden emotion: pale cheeks. Pallid , limited mainly to the human countenance, implies an excessive paleness induced by intense emotion, disease, or death: the pallid lips of the dying man. Wan implies a sickly paleness, as after a long illness: wan and thin; the suggestion of weakness may be more prominent than that of lack of color: a wan smile. 5. blanch, lose color.
1. ruddy. 5. darken. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for paler
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Female—Head and neck, cinnamon brown, paler on the throat; back, dark gray.

  • But the Queen of the Year became more and more silent, and paler and paler.

    What the Moon Saw: and Other Tales Hans Christian Andersen
  • The blood mounted to her face, to ebb again upon the instant, leaving it paler than it had been.

    Bardelys the Magnificent Rafael Sabatini
  • The girl started at sight of the pale face and paler lips of her mistress.

    The Golden Dog William Kirby
  • But she grew hotter, and paler, and less the captain of anything at all.

    What Not Rose Macaulay
  • The response to his letter had left Gerard paler than usual and very grave.

    From the Car Behind Eleanor M. Ingram
  • Among them were blossoms of the paler golden-club, which looked like the tongue of a calla lily.

    Everyday Adventures Samuel Scoville
  • Her eyes rested on the gardens, and she became pale, paler still!

    The Pearl of Lima Jules Verne
  • He grew thinner and paler at this time and his apprehensions as to his future rapidly became morbid.

    The "Genius" Theodore Dreiser
British Dictionary definitions for paler


lacking brightness of colour; whitish: pale morning light
(of a colour) whitish; produced by a relatively small quantity of colouring agent
dim or wan: the pale stars
feeble: a pale effort
(South African) a euphemism for White
to make or become pale or paler; blanch
(intransitive) often foll by before. to lose superiority or importance (in comparison to): her beauty paled before that of her hostess
Derived Forms
palely, adverb
paleness, noun
Word Origin
C13: from Old French palle, from Latin pallidus pale, from pallēre to look wan


a wooden post or strip used as an upright member in a fence
an enclosing barrier, esp a fence made of pales
an area enclosed by a pale
a sphere of activity within which certain restrictions are applied
(heraldry) an ordinary consisting of a vertical stripe, usually in the centre of a shield
beyond the pale, outside the limits of social convention
(transitive) to enclose with pales
Word Origin
C14: from Old French pal, from Latin pālus stake; compare pole1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for paler



early 14c., from Old French paile "pale, light-colored" (12c., Modern French pâle), from Latin pallidus "pale, pallid, wan, colorless," from pallere "be pale, grow pale," from PIE *pel- (2) "pale" (see pallor). Pale-face, supposed North American Indian word for "European," is attested from 1822.


early 13c. (c.1200 in Anglo-Latin), "stake, pole, stake for vines," from Old French pal and directly from Latin palus "stake, prop, wooden post," related to pangere "to fix or fasten" (see pact).

From late 14c. as "fence of pointed stakes;" figurative sense of "limit, boundary, restriction" is from c.1400. Barely surviving in beyond the pale and similar phrases. Meaning "the part of Ireland under English rule" is from 1540s, via sense of "territory held by power of a nation or people" (mid-15c.).


late 14c., "become pale; appear pale" (also, in Middle English, "to make pale"), from Old French paleir (12c.) or from pale (adj.). Related: Paled; paling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with paler


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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