- pole (n.1)
- "stake," late Old English pal "stake, pole, post," a general Germanic borrowing (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]
- pole (n.2)
- "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 *kwol- "turn round," from root *kwel- (1) "wheel; turn, roll around" (see cycle (n.)).
- Pole (n.)
- "inhabitant or native of Poland," 1650s, from German Pole, singular of Polen, from Polish Polanie "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)).
- pole (v.)
- "to furnish with poles," 1570s, from pole (n.1). Meaning "to push with a pole" is from 1753. Related: Poled; poling.