adjective (1)
fal·​low | \ ˈfa-(ˌ)lō How to pronounce fallow (audio) \

Definition of fallow

 (Entry 1 of 4)

: of a light yellowish-brown color a fallow greyhound



Definition of fallow (Entry 2 of 4)

1 : usually cultivated land that is allowed to lie idle during the growing season
2 obsolete : plowed land
3 : the state or period of being fallow Summer fallow is effective for destroying weeds.
4 : the tilling of land without sowing it for a season


fallowed; fallowing; fallows

Definition of fallow (Entry 3 of 4)

transitive verb

: to plow, harrow, and break up (land) without seeding to destroy weeds and conserve soil moisture


adjective (2)

Definition of fallow (Entry 4 of 4)

1 : left untilled or unsown after plowing
2 : dormant, inactive used especially in the phrase to lie fallow at this very moment there are probably important inventions lying fallowHarper's

Other Words from fallow

Adjective (2)

fallowness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for fallow

Synonyms: Adjective (2)

Antonyms: Adjective (2)

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First Known Use of fallow

Adjective (1)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

Adjective (2)

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for fallow

Adjective (1)

Middle English falwe, falew, falow "sallow, dusky, faded, yellow tending toward red or brown (of a horse)," going back to Old English fealu "yellow tending toward red, brown or gray (though in some contexts less clear)," going back to Germanic *falwa- (whence also Old Saxon falu "pale, dun, yellowish," Old High German falo "yellowish, tending toward red, brown, or gold," Old Icelandic fǫlr "pale"), going back to dialectal Indo-European *pol-u̯o-, whence also Old Church Slavic plavŭ "golden (of a ripe field of grain)," Russian polóvyj, polovój "pale yellow" (of horses or dogs), Polish pŀowy "fair, flaxen," Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian plâv "blue, light-colored (of hair), blond," Lithuanian pal͂vas "pale, pale yellow," Latvian pal͂ss; perhaps from the same base, with varying ablaut and suffixation: Latin pall- in pallēre "to be pale or bloodless, have a pale color," pallidus "pale, colorless," pallor "paleness of complexion, loss of color" (< *palu̯o-?); Latin pullus "drab-colored, dingy, somber" (< *polu̯o- or *pl̥u̯o-?); Greek pellós "dark-colored, dusky" (< *peli̯ós?), peliós "discolored from a bruise, livid," poliós "pale gray (as of human hair), grizzled" (< *poliu̯os?; compared with Mycenaean po-ri-wa, but this may be a different word); Armenian alik' "gray hair, waves" (< *pl̥-i̯eh2?); Old Irish líath "gray (of the hair, beard), gray-haired," Welsh llwyd "gray, pale, brown, turbid" (< *plei̯-to-?), Sanskrit paruṣá- "gray, gray-brown, dirty," palitá- "gray, gray-haired with age"

Note: The semantic range of Old English fealu has long been a point of discussion, as the word is applied to entities (as the waves of the sea, faded flowers and the feet of a phoenix), notably in poetry, that cannot be easily labeled with a single color name in Modern English. It has been claimed that this and some other Old English color words (as well as their Germanic cognates) may describe degrees of brightness more than hue; for a critical discussion of the earlier literature see C.P. Biggam, "The ambiguity of brightness (with special reference to Old English) and a new model for color description in semantics," Robert E. MacLaury et al., editors, Anthropology of Colors, Benjamins, 2007, pp. 171-88. The modern word fallow is now rare outside of the collocation fallow deer. — Outside of the coherent Germanic and Balto-Slavic set exemplified by fallow, the Indo-European comparative data offer a good deal of semantic and formal diversity. As A. Nussbaum has pointed out ("The 'Saussure Effect' in Latin and Italic," A. Lubotsky, editor, Sound Law and Analogy, Rodopi, 1997, pp. 190-91), the words outside of Latin betray an original i-stem *pel-ei̯- and have the meaning "gray, lacking brightness." The Latin set exemplified by pallidus has a problematic a; a reconstruction *palu̯o- would allow Latin to be grouped with Germanic and Balto-Slavic, but the source of such a form is unclear.

Noun, Verb, and Adjective (2)

Middle English falwe, falow, from Old English fealg — more at felly

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The first known use of fallow was before the 12th century

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fall over



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Cite this Entry

“Fallow.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fallow. Accessed 29 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for fallow


fal·​low | \ ˈfa-lō How to pronounce fallow (audio) \

Kids Definition of fallow

: not tilled or planted fallow fields

More from Merriam-Webster on fallow

Nglish: Translation of fallow for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of fallow for Arabic Speakers


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