- stall (v.2)
- 1590s, "distract a victim and thus screen a pickpocket from observation," from stall (n.2) "decoy." Meaning "to prevaricate, be evasive, play for time" is attested from 1903. Related: Stalled; stalling. Compare old slang stalling ken "house for receiving stolen goods" (1560s).
- stall (n.1)
- "place in a stable for animals," Old English steall "standing place, position, state; place where cattle are kept, fishing ground," from Proto-Germanic *stalla- (source also of Old Norse stallr "pedestal for idols, altar; crib, manger," Old Frisian stal, Old High German stall "stand, place, stable, stall," German Stall "stable," Stelle "place"), from PIE root *stel- "to put, stand," with derivatives referring to a standing object or place (source also of Greek stele "standing block, slab," stellein "to set in order, arrange, array, equip, make ready;" Latin stolidus "insensible, dull, brutish," properly "unmovable").
Meaning "partially enclosed seat in a choir" is attested from c. 1400; that of "urinal in a men's room" is from 1967. Several meanings, including that of "a stand for selling" (mid-13c., implied in stallage), probably are from (or influenced by) Anglo-French and Old French estal "station, position; stall of a stable; stall in a market; a standing still; a standing firm" (12c., Modern French étal "butcher's stall"). This, along with Italian stallo "place," stalla "stable" is a borrowing from a Germanic source from the same root as the native English word.
- stall (n.2)
- "pretense or evasive story to avoid doing something," 1812, from earlier sense "thief's assistant" (1590s, also staller), from a variant of stale "bird used as a decoy to lure other birds" (mid-15c.), from Anglo-French estale "decoy, pigeon used to lure a hawk" (13c., compare stool pigeon), literally "standstill," from Old French estal "place, stand, stall," from Frankish *stal- "position," ultimately from Germanic and cognate with Old English steall (see stall (n.1)). Compare Old English stælhran "decoy reindeer," German stellvogel "decoy bird." Figurative sense of "deception, means of allurement" is first recorded 1520s. Also see stall (v.2).
The stallers up are gratified with such part of the gains acquired as the liberality of the knuckling gentlemen may prompt them to bestow. [J.H. Vaux, "Flash Dictionary," 1812]
- stall (v.1)
- "to come to a stand" (intransitive), c. 1400; "to become stuck or be set fast," mid-15c., from Old French estale or Old English steall (see stall (n.1)). Transitive sense "place in office, install" is 14c.; specifically "place an animal in a stall" (late 14c.). Of engines or engine-powered vehicles, it is attested from 1904 (transitive), 1914 (intransitive); of aircraft "to lose lift," 1910. Related: Stalled; stalling.
- stall (n.3)
- "action of losing lift, power, or motion," 1918 of aircraft, 1959 of automobile engines, from stall (v.1).