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[peyl] /peɪl/
adjective, paler, palest.
  1. light-colored or lacking in color:
    a pale complexion; his pale face; a pale child.
  2. lacking the usual intensity of color due to fear, illness, stress, etc.:
    She looked pale and unwell when we visited her in the nursing home.
of a low degree of chroma, saturation, or purity; approaching white or gray:
pale yellow.
not bright or brilliant; dim:
the pale moon.
faint or feeble; lacking vigor:
a pale protest.
verb (used with or without object), paled, paling.
to make or become pale:
to pale at the sight of blood.
Origin of pale1
1250-1300; Middle English < Middle French < Latin pallidus pallid
Related forms
palely, adverb
paleness, noun
Can be confused
pale, pail, pall, pallor (see synonym study at the current entry)
1. Pale, pallid, wan imply an absence of color, especially from the human countenance. Pale implies a faintness or absence of color, which may be natural when applied to things, the pale blue of a violet, but when used to refer to the human face usually means an unnatural and often temporary absence of color, as arising from sickness or sudden emotion: pale cheeks. Pallid , limited mainly to the human countenance, implies an excessive paleness induced by intense emotion, disease, or death: the pallid lips of the dying man. Wan implies a sickly paleness, as after a long illness: wan and thin; the suggestion of weakness may be more prominent than that of lack of color: a wan smile. 5. blanch, lose color.
1. ruddy. 5. darken. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for palely
Historical Examples
  • "But the war did happen, right enough," smiled Aaron palely.

    Aaron's Rod D. H. Lawrence
  • It was daylight and the silvery grayness overhead was palely luminous.

    Where the World is Quiet Henry Kuttner
  • Far down in the shadows she discerned the river, yellow, turgid, palely gleaming.

  • The mist, palely opalescent, drives past her out of nothing into nowhere.

    Modern Essays John Macy
  • In the candle-light, palely golden and swaying, Eric saw Suzanne slumped limply in John's arms.

    The Medici Boots Pearl Norton Swet
  • Was it a knife on which a faint ray of moonlight was palely reflected?

    Under False Pretences Adeline Sergeant
  • I could manifest myself as palely, as transiently, as a thought.

  • Her mother, palely indistinct in the darkness, was standing by the bedside.

    The Lion's Share E. Arnold Bennett
  • Such blue of sky, so palely fair, Such glow of earth, such lucid air!

    Reviews Oscar Wilde
  • As for coloring it might have been the coloring of a pensive Madonna, so white was her skin, so palely gold her smooth thick hair.

    The Confounding of Camelia Anne Douglas Sedgwick
British Dictionary definitions for palely


lacking brightness of colour; whitish: pale morning light
(of a colour) whitish; produced by a relatively small quantity of colouring agent
dim or wan: the pale stars
feeble: a pale effort
(South African) a euphemism for White
to make or become pale or paler; blanch
(intransitive) often foll by before. to lose superiority or importance (in comparison to): her beauty paled before that of her hostess
Derived Forms
palely, adverb
paleness, noun
Word Origin
C13: from Old French palle, from Latin pallidus pale, from pallēre to look wan


a wooden post or strip used as an upright member in a fence
an enclosing barrier, esp a fence made of pales
an area enclosed by a pale
a sphere of activity within which certain restrictions are applied
(heraldry) an ordinary consisting of a vertical stripe, usually in the centre of a shield
beyond the pale, outside the limits of social convention
(transitive) to enclose with pales
Word Origin
C14: from Old French pal, from Latin pālus stake; compare pole1
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
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Word Origin and History for palely



early 14c., 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 *pel- (2) "pale" (see pallor). Pale-face, supposed North American Indian word for "European," is attested from 1822.


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," related to pangere "to fix or fasten" (see pact).

From late 14c. as "fence of pointed stakes;" figurative sense of "limit, boundary, restriction" is from c.1400. Barely surviving in beyond the pale and similar phrases. Meaning "the part of Ireland under English rule" is from 1540s, via sense of "territory held by power of a nation or people" (mid-15c.).


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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with palely


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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