adjective, pal·er, pal·est.

verb (used without object), paled, pal·ing.

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 pale

1250–1300; Middle English < Middle French < Latin pallidus pallid
Related formspale·ly, adverbpale·ness, noun
Can be confusedpale pailpale pall pallor

Synonyms for pale

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.

Antonyms for pale

1. ruddy. 5. darken.




a stake or picket, as of a fence.
an enclosing or confining barrier; enclosure.
an enclosed area.
limits; bounds: outside the pale of his jurisdiction.
a district or region within designated bounds.
(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.
an ordinary in the form of a broad vertical stripe at the center of an escutcheon.
Shipbuilding. a shore used inside to support the deck beams of a hull under construction.

verb (used with object), paled, pal·ing.

to enclose with pales; fence.
to encircle or encompass.

Origin of pale

1300–50; Middle English (north), Old English pāl < Latin pālus stake. See peel3, pole1


variant of paleo- before most vowels: paleethnology.
Also especially British, palae-. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for pale

Contemporary Examples of pale

Historical Examples of pale

  • A still, pale fog is soothing; it lulls nature to a kind of repose.


    Thomas Wentworth Higginson

  • How pale and eager their faces looked as they bent above him!


    Thomas Wentworth Higginson

  • What instinct made you choose that shade of pale green for your frock?


    William J. Locke

  • Robin's pale, blank face had a sick look, a deadly smoothness.

  • The youth's pale face flushed with the pride of the skilled workman.

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

British Dictionary definitions for pale




lacking brightness of colour; whitishpale morning light
(of a colour) whitish; produced by a relatively small quantity of colouring agent
dim or wanthe pale stars
feeblea pale effort
Southern African a euphemism for White


to make or become pale or paler; blanch
(intr often foll by before) to lose superiority or importance (in comparison to)her beauty paled before that of her hostess
Derived Formspalely, adverbpaleness, noun

Word Origin for pale

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


(tr) to enclose with pales

Word Origin for pale

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 pale

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

Idioms and Phrases with pale


see beyond the pale.

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