adjective, stal·er, stal·est.

not fresh; vapid or flat, as beverages; dry or hardened, as bread.
musty; stagnant: stale air.
having lost novelty or interest; hackneyed; trite: a stale joke.
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.
Law. having lost force or effectiveness through absence of action, as a claim.

verb (used with or without object), staled, stal·ing.

to make or become stale.

Nearby words

  1. stalactites,
  2. stalag,
  3. stalagmite,
  4. stalagmites,
  5. stalagmometer,
  6. stale bull,
  7. stalemate,
  8. stalin,
  9. stalin peak,
  10. stalin's purge trials

Origin of stale

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 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for staleness

British Dictionary definitions for staleness




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


to make or become stale
Derived Formsstalely, adverbstaleness, noun

Word Origin for stale

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




(intr) (of livestock) to urinate


the urine of horses or cattle

Word Origin for stale

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 staleness



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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper