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"place in a stable for animals," Old English steall "place where cattle are kept, place, position," from Proto-Germanic *stallaz (cf. Old Norse stallr "pedestal for idols, altar," Old Frisian stal, Old High German stall "stand, place, stable, stall," German Stall "stable," Stelle "place"), earlier *stalnaz- or *stathlo-, from PIE root *stel- "to put, stand," with derivatives referring to a standing object or place (cf. Greek stele "standing block, slab," Latin stolidus "insensible, dull, brutish," properly "unmovable").
The word passed into Romanic languages (cf. Italian stallo "place," stalla "stable;" Old French estal "place, position, stand, stall," French étal "butcher's stall"). Several meanings, including that of "a stand for selling" (mid-13c., implied in stallage "tax levied for the privilege of erecting a stall at a market or fair"), are from (or influenced by) Old French estal. Meaning "partially enclosed seat in a choir" is attested from c.1400; that of "urinal in a men's room" is from 1967.
"pretense to avoid doing something," variant of stale "bird used as a decoy to lure other birds" (mid-15c.), from Anglo-French estale "decoy, pigeon used to lure a hawk" (13c., cf. stool pigeon), literally "standstill," from Old French estal "place, stand, stall," from Frankish *stal- "position," cognate with Old English steall (see stall (n.1)).
Cf. Old English stælhran "decoy reindeer," German stellvogel "decoy bird." Figurative sense of "deception, means of allurement" is first recorded 1520s. Meaning "evasive trick or story, pretext, excuse" first recorded 1812 (see stall (v.)); sense entwined with that of "thief's assistant" (1590s).
The stallers up are gratified with such part of the gains acquired as the liberality of the knuckling gentlemen may prompt them to bestow. [J.H. Vaux, "Flash Dictionary," 1812]
1590s, "to screen a pickpocket from observation," from stall (n.2) "decoy." Meaning "to precaricate, be evasive, play for time" is attested from 1903. Of engines or engine-powered vehicles, it is attested from 1904 (transitive), 1914 (intransitive), from earlier sense of "to become stuck, come to a standstill" (c.1400), which is directly from Old French estale or Old English steall (see stall (n.1)). Related: Stalled; stalling.
[fr Old English steall, ''standing, state, place, animal stall,'' whence the notion of stubbornly holding one's place]
[fr earlier stale or stall, ''decoy bird,'' probably fr Anglo-French estale or estal, ''a pigeon used to lure a hawk into a nest''; since delaying and misleading are involved in both, this derivation and that of stall1 have probably intermingled over the centuries, as illustrated by the fact that stand meant ''a thief's assistant'' in the late 16th century]