paler; palest

Definition of pale

 (Entry 1 of 5)

1a : deficient in color or intensity of color : pallid a pale complexion
b(1) : having color of reduced saturation (see saturation sense 4a) a pale pink
(2) : light in color especially relative to others of its kind pale beers
2 : not bright or brilliant : dim a pale sun shining through the fog
3 : feeble, faint a pale imitation


verb (1)
paled; paling

Definition of pale (Entry 2 of 5)

intransitive verb

: to become pale

transitive verb

: to make pale


\ ˈpāl How to pronounce pale (audio) \

Definition of pale (Entry 3 of 5)

1 : an area or the limits within which one is privileged or protected (as from censure) conduct that was beyond the pale
2a : a space or field having bounds : enclosure The cattle were led into the pale.
b : a territory or district within certain bounds or under a particular jurisdiction British culture survived even within the Roman pale.
3a : one of the stakes of a palisade
4 : a perpendicular stripe on a heraldic shield
5 archaic : palisade, paling


verb (2)
paled; paling

Definition of pale (Entry 4 of 5)

transitive verb

: to enclose with pales : fence

Definition of pale- (Entry 5 of 5)

— see paleo-

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from pale


palely \ ˈpāl-​lē How to pronounce pale- (audio) \ adverb
paleness \ ˈpāl-​nəs How to pronounce pale- (audio) \ noun
palish \ ˈpā-​lish How to pronounce pale- (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms & Antonyms for pale

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of pale in a Sentence

Adjective the pale wood of the table The walls were painted a pale blue. She has a pale complexion. Her illness had left her pale and weak. She grew pale with fright. Are you feeling well? You look pale. the pale light of dawn
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective What was the exact shade of blue-red lipstick that Best Actress nominee Vanessa Kirby paired with her pale pink Gucci gown? Zoe Ruffner, Vogue, "9 Celebrity Makeup Artists Reveal the Top Products They Used at the Oscars," 26 Apr. 2021 Vanessa Kirby’s put an elegant spin on Cartier’s platinum and diamond drop necklace by wearing it backwards with the 7.04-carat diamond pendant falling just between her shoulders above the dip in the back of her pale pink Gucci gown. Paige Reddinger, Robb Report, "Zendaya Wore Two Insane Bulgari Necklaces—and 231.78-Carats in Diamonds—to the Oscars," 26 Apr. 2021 Set of Two Ophelia Crystal Tealight Candle Holders by Reflections Copenhagen: This pair of pale pink and clear tealight holders is by Danish homeware label, Reflections Copenhagen. Felicity Carter, Forbes, "The Decorative Objet D’Art Edit For The Home," 4 Apr. 2021 Layer this stylized floral in pale gray with solid white or gray dinnerware for an upscale or casual dining look. Daria Smith, Southern Living, "Classic Corelle and CorningWare Patterns Just Like Mama’s That You Can Buy Now," 19 Mar. 2021 Custom cabinets in a pale gray (Collingwood by Benjamin Moore) set the kitchen apart from the rest of the white-walled apartment. Lindsey Ramsey, House Beautiful, "Two Powerhouse Firms Combined Forces to Create a Cloud-like City Loft," 19 Feb. 2021 In the one picture of Lavigne that exists in the public domain, his official Army portrait, his head looks like a white egg, and his face has the pale and drawn appearance of a man who has just shorn off a beard and shaved his scalp to the skin. Seth Harp, Rolling Stone, "THE FORT," 18 Apr. 2021 The Silky blush, an elegant powder embossed with the Hermès name and with ribs that resemble the weft of Hermès silk, comes in eight shades, from the pale Rose Abricot to the deep Rose Feu. Linda Wells, Town & Country, "This Will Make You Blush," 16 Apr. 2021 Following 30 to 40 minutes after initial quiet sleep, the octopuses dramatically shifted from pale white to shades of rusty orange. Elizabeth Gamillo, Smithsonian Magazine, "Like Humans and Mammals, Octopuses May Have Two Stages of Sleep," 26 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun There was testimony, not only from experts, but from the police, from the chief of the -- of the department involved, the Minneapolis Police Chief, saying that what Derek Chauvin did was completely beyond the pale. NBC News, "Meet the Press - April 25, 2021," 25 Apr. 2021 But Senate Republicans’ frothing, baseless attacks on Gupta and Clarke are indeed beyond the pale. Ankush Khardori, The New Republic, "The Republicans’ Unhinged, Baseless Attacks on Biden’s DOJ Nominees," 21 Apr. 2021 World events have also played their part in the normalization of attitudes that were once beyond the pale, suggests Thomas Guénolé, a political analyst. Colette Davidson, The Christian Science Monitor, "How the far-right has shifted France’s political center of gravity," 14 Apr. 2021 Berman Law Group is based in a one-story pale yellow building with a cherry-red roof not far from the ocean. Annie Linskey, Anchorage Daily News, "Biden brother’s role at Florida law firm complicates ethics message," 4 Feb. 2021 Certainly homosexuality was considered beyond the pale, though a few plays on Broadway tested the limits. New York Times, "The Talented Mr. Ripley," 24 Mar. 2021 As with social issues, where positions held by Barack Obama now constitute unconscionable bigotry, long-running and bipartisan views about fighting poverty lie suddenly beyond the pale. Oren Cass, National Review, "The Left’s Welfare Extremism," 5 Mar. 2021 Her nomination was imperiled after Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., said her many tweets deriding political opponents were beyond the pale. Matthew Brown, USA TODAY, "Neera Tanden is out. What's next for the White House budget office — and Tanden?," 4 Mar. 2021 But the foreboding lighthouse of Shutter Island and the macabre, labyrinthine hospital of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest pale in comparison with both movies’ animating horrors: the wretched treatment of the people trapped within. Hannah Giorgis, The Atlantic, "When Cruelty Is Disguised as Care Work," 24 Feb. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The numbers pale in comparison with multibillion-dollar sales forecasts of other vaccine makers including Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. Jenny Strasburg And Cecilia Butini, WSJ, "AstraZeneca Lost Money on Its Covid-19 Vaccine," 30 Apr. 2021 Even so, Biden’s proposals thus far pale in comparison to comprehensive hydrogen road maps that other countries, such as Australia and Chile, are putting into place. Abby Smith, Washington Examiner, "Biden administration and industry alike see hydrogen as 'Swiss Army knife' for eliminating emissions," 15 Apr. 2021 The discomfort that some cisgender, heterosexual individuals might feel in answering a few optional questions should pale when compared to the massive health equity potential. Lala Tanmoy Das, Wired, "We Need More Covid-19 Data on the LGBTQ+ Community," 11 Mar. 2021 While South Korea's population may pale in size to that of the U.S. or China, where e-commerce titan Alibaba roosts, Coupang’s focus still remains on its home front, Coupang CEO Bom Kim said in an interview with Fortune on Thursday. Lucinda Shen, Fortune, "After its IPO, Coupang eyes South Korea domination," 12 Mar. 2021 That is impressive, but will probably pale in comparison to what the Americans achieve. Carol Ryan, WSJ, "All Pot Stocks Aren’t Created Equal," 8 Mar. 2021 The vehicles that are coming to market today make the musclecars and sports cars of 70 years ago pale in comparison. Jack R. Nerad, Forbes, "Hot & Ready: 4 Born-To-Thrill Luxury Cars On The Way Now," 27 Feb. 2021 In such a scenario, any potential harm the C-RAM might cause to civilians would likely pale in comparison to the casualties and destruction caused by a large-scale militia rocket bombardment that isn’t intercepted. Paul Iddon, Forbes, "Why Weren’t U.S. Air Defenses In Erbil Airport Fired During Recent Rocket Attack?," 27 Feb. 2021 Chromatically speaking, however, those pale in comparison to the Midwest bracket, where there is — in very living color — a pigment that is not often a primary one in the world of sports: orange. New York Times, "At This N.C.A.A. Tournament, Orange Is the New Bracket," 19 Mar. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pale.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of pale


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb (1)

14th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense


12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 5

Verb (2)

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for pale


Middle English pale, paal, palle, borrowed from Anglo-French pale, palle, paille (also continental Old French), borrowed (with loss of unstressed -id-) from Latin pallidus "pale, colorless," formed with the adjective suffix -idus from the same base as pallēre "to be pale or bloodless, have a pale color," pallor "paleness of complexion, loss of color" — more at fallow entry 1

Verb (1)

Middle English palen, borrowed from Anglo-French palir (continental Old French palir, paloïr), going back (with conjugation change) to Latin pallēscere "to grow pale, turn a pale color," inchoative derivative of pallēre "to be pale or bloodless, have a pale color" — more at fallow entry 1

Noun and Verb (2)

Middle English, from Anglo-French pel, pal stake, from Latin palus — more at pole

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about pale

Time Traveler for pale

Time Traveler

The first known use of pale was in the 12th century

See more words from the same century

Statistics for pale

Last Updated

4 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Pale.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 May. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for pale



English Language Learners Definition of pale

: light in color
: having a skin color that is closer to white than is usual or normal
of light : not bright or intense


\ ˈpāl How to pronounce pale (audio) \
paler; palest

Kids Definition of pale

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : having very light skin
2 : having a lighter skin color than normal because of sickness or fear
3 : not bright or brilliant a pale star
4 : light in color or shade pale pink

Other Words from pale

paleness noun


paled; paling

Kids Definition of pale (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to lose color She paled when the wound was described to her.
2 : to make or become less adequate, impressive, or intense My science project paled in comparison to those of the other students.


\ ˈpā(ə)l How to pronounce pale (audio) \
paler; palest

Medical Definition of pale

: deficient in color or intensity of color a pale face

Other Words from pale

paleness \ -​nəs How to pronounce pale (audio) \ noun

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on pale

What made you want to look up pale? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Star Wars Words Quiz

  • cu jedi training
  • The bounty portion of bounty hunters (such as Boba Fett) comes from a Latin word meaning
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!