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[steyl] /steɪl/
adjective, staler, stalest.
not fresh; vapid or flat, as beverages; dry or hardened, as bread.
musty; stagnant:
stale air.
having lost novelty or interest; hackneyed; trite:
a stale joke.
having lost freshness, vigor, quick intelligence, initiative, or the like, as from overstrain, boredom, or surfeit:
He had grown stale on the job and needed a long vacation.
Law. having lost force or effectiveness through absence of action, as a claim.
verb (used with or without object), staled, staling.
to make or become stale.
Origin of stale1
1250-1300; Middle English; akin to Middle Dutch stel in same sense; perhaps akin to stand or to stale2
Related forms
stalely, adverb
staleness, noun
1. hard, tasteless, sour, insipid. 3. uninteresting, stereotyped, old, common.
1. fresh. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for staleness
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It was night, and hot with a staleness of the air which was stifling.

    The Summons A.E.W. Mason
  • The oddest mixture of staleness and of freshness is to be found there.

    My Contemporaries In Fiction David Christie Murray
  • If the arguments employed were now well-worn, they were repeated with an incisiveness that took away much of their staleness.

    Stephen A. Douglas Allen Johnson
  • He, too, who had admonished her rather sneeringly for staleness in her information.

  • It even changed the smell of it from time to time, so that there was no feeling of staleness.

    Space Tug Murray Leinster
  • Was Government admitting there was nothing but staleness in the present?

    DP Arthur Dekker Savage
  • We have seen the advice given to play through a period of staleness.

    The Happy Golfer Henry Leach
  • A demonstration of the staleness of our bread and the absence of potatoes in the soup.

    Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist Alexander Berkman
  • The staleness you noticed is due to our men being so largely educated by old women—old maids.

British Dictionary definitions for staleness


(esp of food) hard, musty, or dry from being kept too long
(of beer, etc) flat and tasteless from being kept open too long
(of air) stagnant; foul
uninteresting from overuse; hackneyed: stale clichés
no longer new: stale news
lacking in energy or ideas through overwork or lack of variety
(banking) (of a cheque) not negotiable by a bank as a result of not having been presented within six months of being written
(law) (of a claim, etc) having lost its effectiveness or force, as by failure to act or by the lapse of time
to make or become stale
Derived Forms
stalely, adverb
staleness, noun
Word Origin
C13 (originally applied to liquor in the sense: well matured): probably via Norman French from Old French estale (unattested) motionless, of Frankish origin; related to stall1, install


(intransitive) (of livestock) to urinate
the urine of horses or cattle
Word Origin
C15: perhaps from Old French estaler to stand in one position; see stall1; compare Middle Low German stallen to urinate, Greek stalassein to drip
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 staleness



c.1300, "freed from dregs or lees" (of ale, wine, etc.), i.e. "having stood long enough to clear," cognate with Middle Dutch stel "stale" (of beer), and probably ultimately from Proto-Germanic base *sta- "stand," the source of Old English standan "to stand," Perhaps via Old French estaler "halt," from Frankish *stal- "position" (see stall (n.1)). The meaning "not fresh" is first recorded late 15c. Figurative sense (of immaterial things) is recorded from 1560s. Related: Staleness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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