pale (adj.)

early 14c., of human skin or complexion, "of a whitish appearance, bloodless, pallid," from Old French paile "pale, light-colored" (12c., Modern French pâle), from Latin pallidus "pale, pallid, wan, colorless," from pallere "be pale, grow pale," from PIE root *pel- (1) "pale." Pallid is a doublet.

From mid-14c. of colors, "lacking chromatic intensity, approaching white;" from late-14c. of non-human objects or substances (liquors, etc.). Figurative use also is from late 14c. Related: Palely; palish; paleness. Paleface, supposed translating a typical North American Indian word for "European," is attested from 1822 in American English.

pale (n.)

early 13c. (c. 1200 in Anglo-Latin), "stake, pole, stake for vines," from Old French pal and directly from Latin palus "stake, prop, wooden post" (source also of Spanish and Italian palo), which is from PIE *pakslo-, suffixed form of root *pag- "to fasten." A doublet of pole (n.1).

From late 14c. as "fence of pointed stakes." Paler as a surname meaning "fence-builder" is recorded from late 12c. Another Middle English form of the word in the "fence, paling, wall of an enclosure" sense, based on the plural, was pales, palis (late 14c.), and the surname Paliser is attested from early 14c.

 The figurative sense of "limit, boundary, restriction" is from c. 1400, and survives (barely) in beyond the pale and similar phrases. Meaning "the part of Ireland under English rule" is by 1540s (the thing itself dates to the conquests of Henry II), via the notion of "enclosed space," hence "district or region within determined bounds," hence "territory held by power of a nation or people" (mid-15c.).

pale (v.)

late 14c., "become pale; appear pale," also "to make pale;" from Old French paleir (12c.) or from pale (adj.). Related: Paled; paling.

updated on December 16, 2019