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pale2

[peyl]
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noun
  1. a stake or picket, as of a fence.
  2. an enclosing or confining barrier; enclosure.
  3. an enclosed area.
  4. limits; bounds: outside the pale of his jurisdiction.
  5. a district or region within designated bounds.
  6. (initial capital letter) Also called English Pale, Irish Pale. a district in eastern Ireland included in the Angevin Empire of King Henry II and his successors.
  7. an ordinary in the form of a broad vertical stripe at the center of an escutcheon.
  8. Shipbuilding. a shore used inside to support the deck beams of a hull under construction.
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verb (used with object), paled, pal·ing.
  1. to enclose with pales; fence.
  2. to encircle or encompass.
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Idioms
  1. beyond the pale, beyond the limits of propriety, courtesy, protection, safety, etc.: Their public conduct is certainly beyond the pale.
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Origin of pale2

1300–50; Middle English (north), Old English pāl < Latin pālus stake. See peel3, pole1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

prohibitedbannedunthinkableoutlawedreservedunmentionablerestrictedforbiddenanathemaillegalunacceptableinaccessibleoff-limits

British Dictionary definitions for beyond the pale

pale1

adjective
  1. lacking brightness of colour; whitishpale morning light
  2. (of a colour) whitish; produced by a relatively small quantity of colouring agent
  3. dim or wanthe pale stars
  4. feeblea pale effort
  5. Southern African a euphemism for White
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verb
  1. to make or become pale or paler; blanch
  2. (intr often foll by before) to lose superiority or importance (in comparison to)her beauty paled before that of her hostess
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Derived Formspalely, adverbpaleness, noun

Word Origin

C13: from Old French palle, from Latin pallidus pale, from pallēre to look wan

pale2

noun
  1. a wooden post or strip used as an upright member in a fence
  2. an enclosing barrier, esp a fence made of pales
  3. an area enclosed by a pale
  4. a sphere of activity within which certain restrictions are applied
  5. heraldry an ordinary consisting of a vertical stripe, usually in the centre of a shield
  6. beyond the pale outside the limits of social convention
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verb
  1. (tr) to enclose with pales
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Word Origin

C14: from Old French pal, from Latin pālus stake; compare pole 1
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

Word Origin and History for beyond the pale

pale

adj.

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.

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pale

n.

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.).

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pale

v.

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

beyond the pale in Culture

beyond the pale

Totally unacceptable: “His business practices have always been questionable, but this last takeover was beyond the pale.” The Pale in Ireland was a territorial limit beyond which English rule did not extend.

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with beyond the pale

beyond the pale

Outside the bounds of morality, good behavior or judgment; unacceptable. For example, She thought taking the boys to a topless show was beyond the pale. The noun pale, from the Latin palum, meant “a stake for fences” or “a fence made from such stakes.” By extension it came to be used for an area confined by a fence and for any boundary, limit, or restriction, both of these meanings dating from the late 1300s. The pale referred to in the idiom is usually taken to mean the English Pale, the part of Ireland under English rule, and therefore, as perceived by its rulers, within the bounds of civilization.

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pale

see beyond the pale.

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