c. 1300, "freed from dregs or lees" (of ale, wine, etc.), probably literally "having stood long enough to clear," from Old French estale "settled, clear," from estal "place, fixed position," from Frankish *stal- "position," from Proto-Germanic *stol-, from PIE root *stel- "to put, stand, put in order," with derivatives referring to a standing object or place.
Cognate with Middle Dutch stel "stale" (of beer and old urine). Originally a desirable quality (in beer and wine); the meaning "not fresh" is first recorded late 15c. Figurative sense (of immaterial things) "old and trite, hackneyed" is recorded from 1560s. As a noun, "that which has become tasteless by exposure," hence "a prostitute" (in Shakespeare, etc.). Related: Staleness.
Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to put, stand, put in order," with derivatives referring to a standing object or place.
It forms all or part of: apostle; catastaltic; diastole; epistle; forestall; Gestalt; install; installment; pedestal; peristalsis; peristaltic; stale (adj.); stalk (n.); stall (n.1) "place in a stable for animals;" stall (n.2) "pretense to avoid doing something;" stall (v.1) "come to a stop, become stuck;" stallage; stallion; stele; stell; still (adj.); stilt; stole (n.); stolid; stolon; stout; stultify; systaltic; systole.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Greek stellein "to put in order, make ready; equip or dress with weapons, clothes, etc.; prepare (for a journey), dispatch; to furl (sails);" Armenian stełc-anem "to prepare, create;" Albanian shtiell "to wind up, reel up, collect;" Old Church Slavonic po-steljo "I spread;" Old Prussian stallit "to stand;" Old English steall "standing place, stable," Old High German stellen "to set, place."
"stem of a plant," early 14c., probably a diminutive (with -k suffix) of stale "one of the uprights of a ladder, handle, stalk," from Old English stalu "wooden part" (of a tool or instrument), from Proto-Germanic *stalla- (source also of Old English steala "stalk, support," steall "place"), from PIE *stol-no-, suffixed form of *stol-, variant of root *stel- "to put, stand, put in order," with derivatives referring to a standing object or place. Of similar structures in animals from 1826.
"stale joke," 1816, from Joseph Miller (1684-1738), a comedian, whose name was affixed after his death to a popular jest-book, "Joe Miller's Jests, or the Wit's Vade-mecum" (1739) compiled by John Mottley, which gave Miller after his death more fame than he enjoyed while alive.
A certain Lady finding her Husband somewhat too familiar with her Chamber-maid, turned her away immediately; Hussy, said she, I have no Occasion for such Sluts as you, only to do that Work which I choose to do myself. [from "Joe Miller's Jests"].