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See more synonyms for stale on Thesaurus.com
adjective, stal·er, stal·est.
  1. not fresh; vapid or flat, as beverages; dry or hardened, as bread.
  2. musty; stagnant: stale air.
  3. having lost novelty or interest; hackneyed; trite: a stale joke.
  4. having lost freshness, vigor, quick intelligence, initiative, or the like, as from overstrain, boredom, or surfeit: He had grown stale on the job and needed a long vacation.
  5. Law. having lost force or effectiveness through absence of action, as a claim.
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verb (used with or without object), staled, stal·ing.
  1. to make or become stale.
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Origin of stale1

1250–1300; Middle English; akin to Middle Dutch stel in same sense; perhaps akin to stand or to stale2
Related formsstale·ly, adverbstale·ness, noun


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1. fresh.


verb (used without object), staled, stal·ing.
  1. (of livestock, especially horses) to urinate.
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Origin of stale2

1400–50; late Middle English stalen to urinate; cognate with German stallen, Danish stalle, Norwegian, Swedish stalla
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

watery, smelly, sour, stagnant, musty, hackneyed, tired, corny, threadbare, dull, shopworn, dry, stinking, spoiled, rank, parched, dried, faded, reeking, antiquated

Examples from the Web for stale

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • The West and the East were met in conflict,—the old and the new, the stale and the fresh.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • He's too honest entirely to stale the value of a pin, let alone a carpetbag.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • But now came a tide of other news, and almost all of it was stale stuff to him.

  • Then, mix with it three stale rusks or small sponge-cakes, grated also.

  • But the mixture was undoubtedly flat, stale and unprofitable.

    The Fortune Hunter

    Louis Joseph Vance

British Dictionary definitions for stale


  1. (esp of food) hard, musty, or dry from being kept too long
  2. (of beer, etc) flat and tasteless from being kept open too long
  3. (of air) stagnant; foul
  4. uninteresting from overuse; hackneyedstale clichés
  5. no longer newstale news
  6. lacking in energy or ideas through overwork or lack of variety
  7. banking (of a cheque) not negotiable by a bank as a result of not having been presented within six months of being written
  8. law (of a claim, etc) having lost its effectiveness or force, as by failure to act or by the lapse of time
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  1. to make or become stale
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Derived Formsstalely, adverbstaleness, noun

Word Origin

C13 (originally applied to liquor in the sense: well matured): probably via Norman French from Old French estale (unattested) motionless, of Frankish origin; related to stall 1, install


  1. (intr) (of livestock) to urinate
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  1. the urine of horses or cattle
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Word Origin

C15: perhaps from Old French estaler to stand in one position; see stall 1; compare Middle Low German stallen to urinate, Greek stalassein to drip
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 stale


c.1300, "freed from dregs or lees" (of ale, wine, etc.), i.e. "having stood long enough to clear," cognate with Middle Dutch stel "stale" (of beer), and probably ultimately from Proto-Germanic base *sta- "stand," the source of Old English standan "to stand," Perhaps via Old French estaler "halt," from Frankish *stal- "position" (see stall (n.1)). The meaning "not fresh" is first recorded late 15c. Figurative sense (of immaterial things) is recorded from 1560s. Related: Staleness.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper