the act of a person or thing that peels.
that which is peeled from something, as a piece of the skin or rind of a fruit.

Origin of peeling

First recorded in 1555–65; peel1 + -ing1
Related formsun·peel·ing, adjective



verb (used with object)

to strip (something) of its skin, rind, bark, etc.: to peel an orange.
to strip (the skin, rind, bark, paint, etc.) from something: to peel paint from a car.
Croquet. to cause (another player's ball) to go through a wicket.

verb (used without object)

(of skin, bark, paint, etc.) to come off; become separated.
to lose the skin, rind, bark, paint, etc.
Informal. to undress.
Metallurgy. (of a malleable iron casting) to lose, or tend to lose, the outer layer.


the skin or rind of a fruit, vegetable, etc.
Metallurgy. the presence of a brittle outer layer on a malleable iron casting.

Verb Phrases

peel off,
  1. to remove (the skin, bark, etc.) or be removed: The old skin peeled off.
  2. leave a flying formation of aircraft with a banking turn, usually from one end of an echelon.
  3. turn off or leave (a road): We peeled off the highway onto a dirt road.
  4. to remove (clothing) in a swift upward or downward motion.

Origin of peel

before 1100; Middle English pelen, Old English pilian to strip, skin < Latin pilāre to remove hair, derivative of pilus hair. See pill2
Related formspeel·a·ble, adjectiveun·peel·a·ble, adjectiveun·peeled, adjective
Can be confusedpeal peel

Synonyms for peel

1. Peel, pare agree in meaning to remove the skin or rind from something. Peel means to pull or strip off the natural external covering or protection of something: to peel an orange, a potato. Pare is used of trimming off chips, flakes, or superficial parts from something, as well as of cutting off the skin or rind: to pare the nails; to pare a potato. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for peeling

Contemporary Examples of peeling

Historical Examples of peeling

  • Some of their necks and cheeks were peeling, as if from sunburn.

  • The thing were done as clean as peeling an apple, and as quiet.

    The Sea-Hawk

    Raphael Sabatini

  • The degree of this peeling also varies as well as its duration.

  • A good sharp knife will be required for peeling the skin from the neck.


    Leon Luther Pray

  • His upturned face was swollen, red, peeling all over the nose and cheeks.


    Joseph Conrad

British Dictionary definitions for peeling



a strip of skin, rind, bark, etc, that has been peeled offa potato peeling




(tr) to remove (the skin, rind, outer covering, etc) of (a fruit, egg, etc)
(intr) (of paint, etc) to be removed from a surface, esp through weathering
(intr) (of a surface) to lose its outer covering of paint, etc esp through weathering
(intr) (of a person or part of the body) to shed skin in flakes or (of skin) to be shed in flakes, esp as a result of sunburn
croquet to put (another player's ball) through a hoop or hoops
keep one's eyes peeled or keep one's eyes skinned to watch vigilantly


the skin or rind of a fruit, etc
See also peel off

Word Origin for peel

Old English pilian to strip off the outer layer, from Latin pilāre to make bald, from pilus a hair




a long-handled shovel used by bakers for moving bread, in an oven

Word Origin for peel

C14 pele, from Old French, from Latin pāla spade, from pangere to drive in; see palette




(in Britain) a fortified tower of the 16th century on the borders between England and Scotland, built to withstand raids

Word Origin for peel

C14 (fence made of stakes): from Old French piel stake, from Latin pālus; see pale ², paling



John, real name John Robert Parker Ravenscroft . 1939–2004, British broadcaster; presented his influential Radio 1 music programme (1967–2004) and Radio 4's Home Truths (1998–2004)
Sir Robert. 1788–1850, British statesman; Conservative prime minister (1834–35; 1841–46). As Home Secretary (1828–30) he founded the Metropolitan Police and in his second ministry carried through a series of free-trade budgets culminating in the repeal of the Corn Laws (1846), which split the Tory party
Derived FormsPeelite, noun
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 peeling



"to strip off," developed from Old English pilian "to peel, skin, decorticate, strip the skin or ring," and Old French pillier, both from Latin pilare "to strip of hair," from pilus "hair" (see pile (n.3)). Probably also influenced by Latin pellis "skin, hide." Related: Peeled; peeling. Figurative expression keep (one's) eyes peeled be observant, be on the alert" is from 1853, American English.



"shovel-shaped instrument" used by bakers, etc., c.1400, from Old French pele (Modern French pelle) "shovel," from Latin pala "spade, shovel, baker's peel," of unknown origin.



piece of rind or skin, 1580s, from earlier pill, pile (late 14c.), from peel (v.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with peeling


In addition to the idiom beginning with peel

  • peel off

also see:

  • keep one's eyes open (peeled)
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.