stale

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English[edit]

Pronunciation[edit]

Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English, from Old English stalu, from Proto-Germanic *stal-[1]

Noun[edit]

stale (plural stales)

  1. (crime, obsolete) Theft; the act of stealing
  2. (crime, obsolete) Stealth, used in the phrase by stale
    • c. 1240, Sawles Warde in Cott. Hom., 249
      Hire wune is to cumen bi stale...hwen me least cweneð.

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English, from Old English stalu, from Proto-Germanic *stal-. The development was paralleled by the ablaut which became English steal, from Middle English stele, from Old English stela, from Proto-Germanic *stel-.[2] The latter also produced Greek στελεός (steleós, "handle") and Latin stēla, which became English stele and stela.

Noun[edit]

stale (plural stales)

  1. A long, thin handle, as of rakes, axes, &c.
    • 12th c., Sidonius Glosses in Anecd. Oxon., I v 59 22
      Ansae et ansulae alicuius rei sunt illa eminentia in illa re per quam capi possit .i. ‘stale’.
    • c. 1393, Langland, Piers Plowman (Vesp. MS), C xxii 279
      And lerede men a ladel bygge with a long stale
    • 1742, W. Ellis, London & Country Brewer 4th ed., I 61
      In Case your Cask is a Butt,...have ready boiling...Water, which put in, and, with a long Stale and a little Birch fastened to its End, scrub the Bottom.
    • 1890 Feb 4, Manchester Guardian, 12 3
      You came to me with the axe head in one hand and the stale in the other.
  2. (dialectical) The posts and rungs composing a ladder
    • 13th c., Ancrene Riwle, 160
      Scheome. and pine...beoð þe two leddre stalen. þet beoð upriht to þe heouene. and bitweonen þeos stalen beoð þe tindes i-vestned of alle gode þeauwes. bi hwuche me climbeð to þe blisse of heouene.
    • c. 1315, Shoreham Poems, I 49
      Þis ilke laddre is charite, Þe stales gode þeawis.
    • 1887, W. D. Parish & al., Kentish Dial.
      Stales, the staves, or risings of a ladder, or the staves of a rack in a stable.
  3. (botany, obsolete) The stem of a plant
  4. The shaft of an arrow, spear, &c.
    • 1553, J. Brende translating Q. Curtius Rufus, Hist., IX
      The Surgians cut of the stale of that shaft in suche wise, that they moued not the heade that was wythin the fleshe.
    • c. 1611, G. Chapman translating Homer, Iliad, IV 173
      ...seeing th'arrowes stale without.
Alternative forms[edit]
Synonyms[edit]
  • handle (grip of tools, generally)
  • haft (handle of axes)
  • shaft (body of arrows, spears, &c.)
  • stem (plants)
Translations[edit]

Verb[edit]

stale (third-person singular simple present stales, present participle staling, simple past and past participle staled)

  1. (transitive, obsolete) To make a ladder by joining rungs ("stales") between the posts
    • 1492 in Archæol. Cant., XVI 304
      For stalyng of the ladders of the Churche xx d.

Etymology 3[edit]

From Middle English stail, from Old French estal (place, something placed) (cp. French étal), from Frankish stal,[3] from Proto-Germanic *stallo-, earlier *staþlo-. Related to stall and stand.

Noun[edit]

stale (plural stales)

  1. (military, obsolete) A fixed position, particularly a soldier's in a battle-line.
  2. (chess, uncommon) A stalemate; a stalemated game
    • 1423, Kingis Quair, CLXIX
      ‘Off mate?’ quod sche...‘thou has fundin stale This mony day’.
    • 1625, Francis Bacon, Essays, 65
      They stand at a stay; Like a Stale at Chesse, where it is no Mate, but yet the Game cannot stirre.
  3. (military, obsolete) An ambush.
    • c. 1425, Wyntoun Cron., IX viii 811
      And he in stale howyd al stil.
    • 1513, G. Douglas translating Virgil, Æneid, XI x 96
      It is a stelling place and sovir harbry, Quhar ost in staill or embuschment may ly.
    • 1577, R. Holinshed, Chron., II 1479 2
      The erle of Essex...with .ii. C. speares was layde in a stale, if the Frenchmen had come neerer.
  4. (obsolete) A band of armed men or hunters
    • c. 1350 in 1847, N. H. Nicolas, Hist. Royal Navy, II 491
      [Every time that it shall be ordered..that armed men..shall land on the enemy's coast to seek victuals... then there shall be ordained a sufficient ‘stale’ of armed men and archers who shall wait together on the land until the ‘forreiours’ return to them].
    • 14th c., Morte Arth., 1355
      [Gawayne] sterttes owtte to hys stede, and with his stale wendes.
    • c. 1540, J. Bellenden translating H. Boece, Hyst. & Cron. Scotl., XII xvi 184
      The staill past throw the wod with sic noyis...yat all the bestis wer rasit fra thair dennys.
    • 1577, R. Holinshed, Hist. Scotl., 471 2 in Chron., I
      The Lard of Drunlanrig lying al thys while in ambush...forbare to breake out to gyue anye charge vppon his enimies, doubting least the Earle of Lennox hadde kept a stale behynde.
  5. (Scotland, military, obsolete) The main force of an army
    • 1532 in 1836, State Papers Henry VIII, IV 626
      Neveryeles I knaw asweill by Englisemen as Scottishmen that their stale was no les then thre thowsand men.
Derived terms[edit]

Adjective[edit]

stale (not comparable)

  1. (chess, obsolete) at a standstill; stalemated
    • c. 1470, Ashmolean MS 344, 21
      Then drawith he & is stale.

Verb[edit]

stale (third-person singular simple present stales, present participle staling, simple past and past participle staled)

  1. (chess, uncommon, transitive) to stalemate
    • c. 1470, Ashmole MS 344, 7
      He shall stale þe black kyng in the pointe þer the crosse standith.
    • 1903, H. J. R. Murray, Brit. Chess. Mag., 283
      In China, however, a player who stales his opponent's King, wins the game.
  2. (chess, obsolete, intransitive) to be stalemated
    • 1597, A. Montgomerie, Cherrie & Slae, 202
      For vnder cuire I got sik check, that I micht neither muife nor neck, bot ather stale or mait.

Etymology 4[edit]

Uncertain. Perhaps Old French estaler, related to the Middle High German stallen (to piss).[4]

Noun[edit]

stale (uncountable)

  1. (livestock, obsolete) Urine, especially used of horses and cattle
    • 14th c., Stockh. Medical MS. in Anglia XVIII 299
      In werd ben men & women...þat þer stale mown not holde.
    • 1535, Miles Coverdale translating the Bible, "Isaiah", XXXVI 100
      ...That they be not compelled to eate their owne donge, and drinke their owne stale with you?
    • 1548, Robert Record, Vrinal of Physick, XI 89
      The stale of Camels and Goats...is good for them that have the dropsie.
    • 1583, B. Melbancke, Philotimus
      Or annoint thy selfe with the stale of a mule.
    • 1603, John Florio translating Michel de Montaigne, Essays, I  48
      Those of Crotta being hardly besieged by Metellus, were reduced to so hard a pinch, and strait necessitie of all manner of other beverage, that they were forced to drinke the stale or urine of their horses.
    • c. 1616, William Shakespeare, Antony & Cleopatra, I iv 62
      Thou did'st drinke The stale of Horses.
    • 1698, J. Fryer, New Acct. E.-India & Persia, 242
      Mice and Weasels by their poysonous Stale infect the Trees so, that they produce Worms.
    • 1733, W. Ellis, Chiltern & Vale Farming, 122
      Sheep, whose Dung and Stale is of most Virtue in the Nourishment of all Trees.
Derived terms[edit]

Verb[edit]

stale (third-person singular simple present stales, present participle staling, simple past and past participle staled)

  1. (livestock, obsolete, intransitive) To urinate, especially used of horses and cattle.
    • 15th c., Lawis Gild, X in Ancient Laws and Customs of the Burghs of Scotland, 68
      Gif ony stal in the yet of the gilde...he sall gif iiijd. to the mendis.
    • 1530, John Palsgrave, L'éclaircissement de la langue française, 732 1
      Tary a whyle, your hors wyll staale.
    • 1631, Ben Jonson, Bartholmew Fayre I iv 64
      Why a pox o' your boxe, once againe: let your little wife stale in it, and she will.
    • 1663, T. Killigrew, Parson's Wedding, I iii
      I wonder [the knight's son] doth not go on all four too, and hold up his Leg when he stales.
    • 1903, Rudyard Kipling, Five Nations, 150
      Cattle-dung where fuel failed; Water where the mules had staled; And sackcloth for their raiment.
    • c. 1920, Aleister Crowley, "Leigh Sublime"
      You stale like a mare
      And fart as you stale
    • 1928, Siegfried Sassoon, Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man, Penguin 2013, p. 35:
      A mile or two before we got to the meet he stopped at an inn, where he put our horses into the stable for twenty minutes, ‘to give them a chance to stale’.
Usage notes[edit]

Occasionally transitive, when in reference to horses or men pissing blood.

Etymology 5[edit]

From Middle English of uncertain etymology, but probably originally from Proto-Germanic *sta- ("to stand"): cf. Flemish stel in the same sense for beer and urine[5]

Adjective[edit]

stale (comparative staler, superlative stalest)

  1. (alcohol, obsolete) clear, free of dregs and lees; old and strong
  2. no longer fresh, in reference to food, urine, straw, wounds
  3. no longer fresh, new, or interesting, in reference to ideas and immaterial things; cliche, hackneyed, dated
    • 1562, in 1867, J. Heywood, Proverbs & Epigrams, 95
      Better is...be it new or stale, A harmelesse lie, than a harmefull true tale.
    • 1579, in G. Harvey, letter book, 60
      Doist thou smyle to reade this stale and beggarlye stuffe.
    • 1604, William Shakespeare, Hamlet, I ii 133
      How wary, stale, flat, and vnprofitable Seeme to me all the vses of this world?
    • 1822 March, Charles Lamb, London Magazine, 284 1
      A two-days-old newspaper. You resent the stale thing as an affront.
  4. no longer nubile or suitable for marriage, in reference to people; past one's prime
    • c. 1580, J. Jeffere, Bugbears, I ii 108
      Rosimunda...hathe an vncle a stale batcheler.
    • 1742, T. Short, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 42 226
      In barren Women, and stale Maids, Tapping should be very cautiously undertaken.
  5. (agriculture, obsolete) fallow, in reference to land
    • 1764, Museum Rusticum, II 306
      Lime would do very little or no good on stale ploughed lands.
  6. (law) unreasonably long in coming, in reference to claims and actions
    a stale affidavit
    a stale demand
    • 1769, William Blackstone, Common Laws of England, IV xv 211
      The jury will rarely give credit to a stale complaint.
  7. worn out, particularly due to age or over-exertion, in reference to athletes and animals in competition
    • 1856, "Stonehenge", Manual of British Rural Sports, II i vi §7 335
      By this means the [horse's] legs are not made more stale than necessary.
    • 1885 May 28, Truth, 853 2
      Dame Agnes will probably be stale after her exertions in the Derby.
  8. (finance) out of date, unpaid for an unreasonable amount of time, particularly in reference to checks
    • 1901, Business Terms & Phrases 2nd ed., 199
      Stale cheque,...a cheque which has remained unpaid for some considerable time.
Usage notes[edit]

In the third sense regarding food, usually (but not always) pejorative and synonymous with gone bad and turned. In reference to mead, wine, and bread, it can describe an acceptable or desired state (see: crouton). In modern English, however, "stale beer" has been light struck, flat, or oxidized and is to be avoided.

Synonyms[edit]
Antonyms[edit]
Derived terms[edit]
Translations[edit]

Noun[edit]

stale (plural stales)

  1. (colloquial) Something stale; a loaf of bread &c. that is no longer fresh
    • 1874, Thomas Hardy, Far from the Madding Crowd, II iii 39
      I went to Riggs's batty-cake shop, and asked 'em for a penneth of the cheapest and nicest stales, that were all but blue-mouldy, but not quite.
    • 1937, George Orwell, Road to Wigan Pier, I i 15
      Frayed-looking sweet-cakes...bought as ‘stales’ from the baker.

Verb[edit]

stale (third-person singular simple present stales, present participle staling, simple past and past participle staled)

  1. (alcohol, obsolete, transitive) to make stale; to age in order to clear and strengthen the drink, particularly in reference to beer[6]
    • c. 1440, Promp. Parv., 472 1
      Stalyn, or make stale drynke, defeco.
    • 1826, Art of Brewing 2nd ed., 106
      A stock of old porter should be kept, sufficient for staling the consumption of twelve months.
  2. (transitive) to make stale; to cause to go out of fashion or currency; to diminish the novelty or interest of, particularly by excessive exposure or consumption
    • 1601, Ben Jonson, Fountaine of Self-love, 36
      Ile goe tell all the Argument of his Play aforehand, and so stale his Inuention to the Auditory before it come foorth.
    • 1601, Ben Jonson, Every Man in his Humor, I iv
      Not content To stale himselfe in all societies, He makes my house as common as a Mart.
    • c. 1616, William Shakespeare, Antony & Cleopatra, II ii 241
      Age cannot wither her, nor custome stale Her infinite variety.
    • 1863, W. W. Story, Roba di Roma, I i 7
      Pictures and statues have been staled by copy and description.
  3. (intransitive) to become stale; to grow odious from excessive exposure or consumption
    • 1717, E. Erskine, Serm. in Wks., 50 1
      They have got so much of Christ as to be staled of his company.
    • 1893, "Q", Delectable Duchy, 325
      Philanthropy was beginning to stale.
  4. (alcohol, intransitive) to become stale; to grow unpleasant from age
    • 1742, W. Ellis, London & Country Brewer, 4th ed., I 64
      The Drink from that Time flattens and stales.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 6[edit]

Probably from uncommon Anglo-Norman estale (pigeon used to lure hawks), ultimately from Proto-Germanic, probably *standaną (to stand). Cf. Old English stælhrán ("decoy reindeer") and Northumbrian stællo ("catching fish").[7]

Noun[edit]

stale (plural stales)

  1. (falconry, hunting, obsolete) A live bird to lure birds of prey or others of its kind into a trap
    • c. 1440, Promp. Parv., 472 1
      Stale, of fowlynge or byrdys takynge, stacionaria.
    • 1579, Thomas North, Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, "Sylla", 515
      Like vnto the fowlers, that by their stales draw other birdes into their nets.
    • 1608, R. Tofte translating Ludovico Ariosto, Satyres, IV 56
      A wife thats more then faire is like a stale, Or chanting whistle which brings birds to thrall.
  2. (obsolete) Any lure, particularly in reference to people used as live bait.
    • c. 1529, "The Tunnyng of Elynour Rummyng", 324, in John Skelton, Certayne Bokes
      She ran in all the hast
      Vnbrased and vnlast...
      It was a stale to take
      the deuyll in a brake.
    • 1577, Raphael Holinshed, Chronicles, "The Historie of England, from the Time that It Was First Inhabited, Vntill the Time that It Was Last Conquered", 79 2
      The Britaynes woulde oftentimes...lay their Cattell...in places conueniente, to bee as a stale to the Romaynes, and when the Romaynes shoulde make to them to fetche the same away,...they would fall vpon them.
    • 1579, J. Stubbs, Discouerie Gaping Gulf
      Her daughter Margerit was the stale to lure...them that otherwise flewe hyghe...and could not be gotten.
    • 1615, George Sandys, A Relation of a Iourney begun An: Dom: 1610, I 66
      ...many of the Coffamen keeping beaytifull boyes, who ſerue as ſtales to procure them cuſtomers.
    • 1670, J. Eachard, Grounds Contempt of Clergy, 88
      Six-pence or a shilling to put into the Box, for a stale to decoy in the rest of the Parish.
  3. (crime, obsolete) An accomplice of a thief or criminal acting as bait
    • 1526, W. Bonde, Pylgrimage of Perfection, III
      Their mynisters, be false bretherne or false sustern, stales of the deuyll.
    • 1633, S. Marmion, Fine Compan., III iv
      This is Captain Whibble, the Towne stale, For all cheating imployments.
  4. (obsolete) a partner whose beloved abandons or torments him in favor of another
    • 1578, J. Lyly, Euphues, 33
      I perceiue Lucilla (sayd he) that I was made thy stale, and Philautus thy laughinge stocke.
    • 1588, T. Hughes, Misfortunes Arthur, I ii 3
      Was I then chose and wedded for his stale?
    • 1611, T. Middleton & al., Roaring Girle
      Did I for this loose all my friends...to be made A stale to a common whore?
    • c. 1616, William Shakespeare, Comedy of Errors, II i 100
      But, too vnruly Deere, he breakes the pale And feedes from home; poore I am but his stale.
    • c. 1640, J. Fletcher & al. Little French Lawyer, III iv
      This comes of rutting: Are we made stales to one another?
  5. (obsolete) A patsy, a pawn, someone used under some false pretext to forward another's (usu. sinister) designs; a stalking horse
    • 1580, E. Grindal in 1710, J. Strype, Hist. E. Grindal, 252
      That of the two nominated, one should be an unfit Man, and as it were a Stale, to bring the Office to the other.
    • 1595, William Shakespeare, Henry VI Part 3, III iii 260
      Had he none else to make a stale but me?
    • 1614, W. Raleigh, Hist. World, I iv iii §19 239
      Eurydice...meaning nothing lesse than to let her husband serue as a Stale, keeping the throne warme till another were growne old enough to sit in it.
    • 1711, J. Puckle, Club 20
      A pretence of kindness is the universal stale to all base projects.
  6. (crime, obsolete) A prostitute of the lowest sort; any wanton woman
    • 1600, William Shakespeare, Much Ado about Nothing, II ii 23
      Spare not to tell him, that he hath wronged his honor in marrying the renowned Claudio...to a contaminated stale.
    • 1606, S. Daniel, Queenes Arcadia, II i
      But to be leaft for such a one as she, The stale of all, what will folke thinke of me?
    • c. 1641, Ralph Montagu, Acts & Monuments, 265
      ...detesting as he said the insatiable impudency of a prostitute Stale.
  7. (hunting, obsolete) Any decoy, either stuffed or manufactured
    • 1681, J. Flavell, Method of Grace, XXXV 588
      'Tis the living bird that makes the best stale to draw others into the net.
    • 1888, G. M. Fenn, Dick o' the Fens, 53
      If my live birds aren't all drownded and my stales spoiled.

Verb[edit]

stale (third-person singular simple present stales, present participle staling, simple past and past participle staled)

  1. (rare, obsolete, transitive) To serve as a decoy, to lure
    • 1557, Tottel's Misc., 198
      The eye...Doth serue to stale her here and there where she doth come and go.

Anagrams[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary. "Stale, n. 1".
  2. ^ Oxford English Dictionary. "Stale, n. 2" & "v. 4".
  3. ^ Oxford English Dictionary. "Stale, n. 4", "n. 6", "v. 3", and "adj. 2".
  4. ^ Oxford English Dictionary. "Stale, n. 5" and "v. 1".
  5. ^ Oxford English Dictionary. "Stale, adj. 1" & "n. 7".
  6. ^ Oxford English Dictionary. "Stale, v. 2".
  7. ^ Oxford English Dictionary. "Stale, n. 3" & "v. 5".

Polish[edit]

Pronunciation[edit]

Adverb[edit]

stale

  1. constantly, continually

Related terms[edit]