(of a person) composed, dignified, and self-assured.
being in balance or equilibrium: a balloon poised on the nose of a seal.
teetering or wavering: to be poised on the brink of disaster.
hovering or suspended in or as in midair: a bird poised in flight; a helicopter poised overhead.

1635–45; poise1 + -ed2, -ed3

unpoised, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged


1 [poiz]
a state of balance or equilibrium, as from equality or equal distribution of weight; equipoise.
a dignified, self-confident manner or bearing; composure; self-possession: to show poise in company.
steadiness; stability: intellectual poise.
suspense or wavering, as between rest and motion or two phases of motion: the poise of the tides.
the way of being poised, held, or carried.
the state or position of hovering: the poise of a bird in the air.
verb (used with object), poised, poising.
to adjust, hold, or carry in equilibrium; balance evenly.
to hold supported or raised, as in position for casting, using, etc.: to poise a spear.
to hold or carry in a particular manner: She walked, carefully poising a water jug on her head.
Obsolete. to weigh.
verb (used without object), poised, poising.
to rest in equilibrium; be balanced.
to hover, as a bird in the air.

1350–1400; (noun) Middle English pois(e) weight < Old French (French poids) < Late Latin pēnsum, noun use of neuter past participle of Latin pendere to weigh; (v.) Middle English poisen to weigh < Old French poiser, variant, based on tonic stem, of peser < Latin pēnsāre, frequentative of pendere

2. self-assurance; polish, grace, refinement.

1, 3. instability.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
poise1 (pɔɪz)
1.  composure or dignity of manner
2.  physical balance or assurance in movement or bearing
3.  the state of being balanced or stable; equilibrium; stability
4.  the position of hovering
5.  suspense or indecision
6.  to be or cause to be balanced or suspended
7.  (tr) to hold, as in readiness: to poise a lance
8.  (tr) a rare word for weigh
[C16: from Old French pois weight, from Latin pēnsum, from pendere to weigh]

poise2 (pwɑːz, pɔɪz)
P the cgs unit of viscosity; the viscosity of a fluid in which a tangential force of 1 dyne per square centimetre maintains a difference in velocity of 1 centimetre per second between two parallel planes 1 centimetre apart. It is equivalent to 0.1 newton second per square metre
[C20: named after Jean Louis Marie Poiseuille (1799--1869), French physician]

poised (pɔɪzd)
1.  self-possessed; dignified; exhibiting composure
2.  balanced and prepared for action: a skier poised at the top of the slope

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

early 15c., "weight, quality of being heavy," later "significance, importance" (mid-15c.), from O.Fr. pois "weight, balance, consideration," from M.L. pesum "weight," from L. pensum, noun use of neuter pp. of pendere "to weigh" (see pendant). The sense of "steadiness, composure"
first recorded 1640s, from notion of being equally weighted on either side (1550s). The verb is first recorded late 14c., "to have a certain weight," from O.Fr. peser, from V.L. pesare, from L. pensare "to weigh carefully," freq. of pendere (pp. pensus) "to weigh." Passive sense of "to be ready" (to do something) is from 1932.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

poise (poiz, pwäz)
A centimeter-gram-second unit of dynamic viscosity equal to one dyne-second per square centimeter.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
poise   (poiz, pwäz)  Pronunciation Key 
The unit of dynamic viscosity in the centimeter-gram-second system, equal to one dyne-second per square centimeter, or 0.1 pascal-seconds.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Example sentences
Now a new technique is poised to greatly speed diagnosis.
The recent publication of the photographs of naked Indians poised to fire
  arrows at a low-flying aircraft electrified the world.
But keeping poised on problem days depends so much on comfort.
We had a fast car ready, a relay to a man first in line at the cable office and
  stenographers with pencils poised at the bureau.
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