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See more synonyms for pole on Thesaurus.com
  1. each of the extremities of the axis of the earth or of any spherical body.
  2. Astronomy. celestial pole.
  3. one of two opposite or contrasted principles or tendencies: His behavior ranges between the poles of restraint and abandon.
  4. a point of concentration of interest, attention, etc.: The beautiful actress was the pole of everyone's curiosity.
  5. Electricity, Magnetism. either of the two regions or parts of an electric battery, magnet, or the like, that exhibits electrical or magnetic polarity.
  6. Cell Biology.
    1. either end of an ideal axis in a nucleus, cell, or ovum, about which parts are more or less symmetrically arranged.
    2. either end of a spindle-shaped figure formed in a cell during mitosis.
    3. the place at which a cell extension or process begins, as a nerve cell axon or a flagellum.
  7. Mathematics.
    1. a singular point at which a given function of a complex variable can be expanded in a Laurent series beginning with a specified finite, negative power of the variable.
    2. origin(def 6b).
  8. Crystallography. a line perpendicular to a crystal face and passing through the crystal center.
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  1. poles apart/asunder, having widely divergent or completely opposite attitudes, interests, etc.: In education and background they were poles apart.
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Origin of pole2

1350–1400; Middle English < Latin polus < Greek pólos pivot, axis, pole
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


British Dictionary definitions for poles apart


  1. a native, inhabitant, or citizen of Poland or a speaker of Polish
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  1. Reginald. 1500–58, English cardinal; last Roman Catholic archbishop of Canterbury (1556–58)
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  1. a long slender usually round piece of wood, metal, or other material
  2. the piece of timber on each side of which a pair of carriage horses are hitched
  3. another name for rod (def. 7)
  4. horse racing, mainly US and Canadian
    1. the inside lane of a racecourse
    2. (as modifier)the pole position
    3. one of a number of markers placed at intervals of one sixteenth of a mile along the side of a racecourse
  5. nautical
    1. any light spar
    2. the part of a mast between the head and the attachment of the uppermost shrouds
  6. under bare poles nautical (of a sailing vessel) with no sails set
  7. up the pole British, Australian and NZ informal
    1. slightly mad
    2. mistaken; on the wrong track
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  1. (tr) to strike or push with a pole
  2. (tr)
    1. to set out (an area of land or garden) with poles
    2. to support (a crop, such as hops or beans) on poles
  3. (tr) to deoxidize (a molten metal, esp copper) by stirring it with green wood
  4. to punt (a boat)
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Word Origin

Old English pāl, from Latin pālus a stake, prop; see pale ²


  1. either of the two antipodal points where the earth's axis of rotation meets the earth's surfaceSee also North Pole, South Pole
  2. astronomy short for celestial pole
  3. physics
    1. either of the two regions at the extremities of a magnet to which the lines of force converge or from which they diverge
    2. either of two points or regions in a piece of material, system, etc, at which there are opposite electric charges, as at the two terminals of a battery
  4. maths an isolated singularity of an analytical function
  5. biology
    1. either end of the axis of a cell, spore, ovum, or similar body
    2. either end of the spindle formed during the metaphase of mitosis and meiosis
  6. physiol the point on a neuron from which the axon or dendrites project from the cell body
  7. either of two mutually exclusive or opposite actions, opinions, etc
  8. geometry the origin in a system of polar or spherical coordinates
  9. any fixed point of reference
  10. poles apart or poles asunder having widely divergent opinions, tastes, etc
  11. from pole to pole throughout the entire world
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Word Origin

C14: from Latin polus end of an axis, from Greek polos pivot, axis, pole; related to Greek kuklos circle
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 poles apart



"stake," late Old English pal "stake, pole, post," a general Germanic borrowing (cf. Old Frisian and Old Saxon pal "stake," Middle Dutch pael, Dutch paal, Old High German pfal, Old Norse pall) from Latin palus "stake" (see pale (n.)).

Racing sense of "inside fence surrounding a course" is from 1851; pole position in auto racing attested from 1904. A ten-foot pole as a metaphoric measure of something one would not touch something (or someone) else with is by 1839, American English. The ten-foot pole was a common tool used to set stakes for fences, etc., and the phrase "Can't touch de bottom with a ten foot pole" is in the popular old minstrel show song "Camptown Races."

"I saw her eat."
"No very unnatural occurrence I should think."
"But she ate an onion!"
"Right my boy, right, never marry a woman who would touch an onion with a ten foot pole."
["The Collegian," University of Virginia, 1839]
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"ends of Earth's axis," late 14c., from Old French pole or directly from Latin polus "end of an axis;" also "the sky, the heavens" (a sense sometimes used in English from 16c.), from Greek polos "pivot, axis of a sphere, the sky," from PIE *kwolo- "turn round," from root *kwel- (see cycle (n.)).

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"inhabitant or native of Poland," 1650s, from German Pole, singular of Polen, from Polish Poljane "Poles," literally "field-dwellers," from pole "field," related to Old Church Slavonic polje "field," from PIE root *pele- (2) "flat, to spread" (see plane (n.1)).

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"to furnish with poles," 1570s, from pole (n.1). Meaning "to push with a pole" is from 1753. Related: Poled; poling.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

poles apart in Medicine


  1. Either of the two points at the extremities of the axis of an organ or body.
  2. Either extremity of an axis through a sphere.
  3. Either of two oppositely charged terminals, as in an electric cell.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

poles apart in Science


  1. Mathematics
    1. Either of the points at which an axis that passes through the center of a sphere intersects the surface of the sphere.
    2. The fixed point used as a reference in a system of polar coordinates. It corresponds to the origin in the Cartesian coordinate system.
    1. GeographyEither of the points at which the Earth's axis of rotation intersects the Earth's surface; the North Pole or South Pole.
    2. Either of the two similar points on another planet.
  2. Physics A magnetic pole.
  3. Electricity Either of two oppositely charged terminals, such as the two electrodes of an electrolytic cell or the electric terminals of a battery.
  4. Biology
    1. Either of the two points at the extremities of the axis of an organ or body.
    2. Either end of the spindle formed in a cell during mitosis.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with poles apart

poles apart

In complete opposition, as in The two brothers were poles apart in nearly all their views. This expression alludes to the two extremities of the earth's axis, the North and South poles. [Early 1900s]

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see low man on the totem pole; not touch with a ten-foot pole.

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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.