within the pale

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

The phrase within the pale, meaning to stay within the limits of law or decency, was in use by the mid-17th century. The phrase is a reference to the general sense of boundary, not to any of the particular places, such as the English pale in Ireland, which bore that name. Out of the many districts established by England (Cork, Dublin, Drogheda, Waterford, and Wexford), only a select few followed the laws established by England, hence "within the pale" and beyond the pale.

Adverb[edit]

within the pale

  1. Within the boundaries, either physical or metaphorical; especially within the limits of acceptable behavior.
    • 2006 July 20, Matthew Parris, "Two reasons why I cannot bring myself to write about the Israel problem",Times Online
      That settlement has to be a return to her pre-1967 boundaries. Precisely because Israel is by no means forced to make so generous a move, the international support (even love) this would generate would secure her future permanently. It would bring her back within the pale.

References[edit]

  • Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrases and Fable, by John Freeman. Harper & Row Publishers, New York