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-

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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

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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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective But progressively higher ion concentrations quickly turn it a pale pink and then a dark violet. Max G. Levy, Wired, "This Sticker Absorbs Sweat—and Might Diagnose Cystic Fibrosis," 8 Apr. 2021 The star-shape flowers of Chionodoxa bulbs range from pale pink to blue. Marty Ross, Better Homes & Gardens, "9 Miniature Flowering Bulbs That Add a Splash of Welcome Color in Early Spring," 20 Feb. 2021 In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix eggs and sugar together and whip on medium-high speed for 5 to 10 minutes, until the mixture is a very pale yellow and tripled in volume. Tribune News Service, cleveland, "Ring in 2021 with a European flair," 29 Dec. 2020 In the images, Gigi, wearing a black crop top, matching sweatpants, and a pale-yellow bucket hat by brand Lack of Color, showed off her baby bump and posed with one of her horses outside. Bianca Betancourt, Harper's BAZAAR, "Gigi Hadid Shares a Series of Throwback Pregnancy Selfies on Instagram," 18 Sep. 2020 The flowers are small, pale yellow and produced on a large stalk. Dan Gill,, "Dan Gill's mailbag: It takes a little work to keep composting pile in balance; don't eat palm fruit," 16 Sep. 2020 So health care workers collect their blood and separate out the red and white blood cells, leaving behind a pale-yellow liquid rich in antibodies, known as plasma. Jonathan Wosen, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Hundreds of San Diegans with COVID-19 have been treated with plasma. But does it work?," 30 Aug. 2020 On icy Uranus, the setting sun turns the bright blue sky to turquoise, while light on Venus fades from a pale yellow to a greenish brown. Nora Mcgreevy, Smithsonian Magazine, "Watch Colorful Sunsets on Distant Planets in This NASA Simulation," 30 June 2020 Mom Michelle Fergus said Michael was severely underweight, pale, and could not keep formula down after recently making the switch from breastmilk. Sydney Cameron, FOX 35 Orlando, "AdventHealth diagnoses severely underweight baby with rare allergy using genomic testing," 20 Feb. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun 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 If Marjorie Taylor Greene isn't beyond the pale, who is? Star Tribune, "Editorial cartoon: Bill Bramhall on Groundhog Day," 1 Feb. 2021 This last action was far enough beyond-the-pale for some on the online left to call for Feinstein’s resignation. Cameron Hilditch, National Review, "Why the Senators Don’t Hate Each Other," 20 Oct. 2020 Known for its Alpha King and Zombie Dust pale ales, Gumballhead wheat ale, Dark Lord imperial stout and an early embrace of aggressively using hops, Three Floyds has been one the nation’s most influential craft breweries since launching in 1996. Josh Noel,, "Three Floyds reportedly closes brewpub — this time for good — due to COVID-19 pandemic," 16 Dec. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb 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 The team’s basketball issues pale in comparison to the real-life wringer DeRozan has been through over the past month. Jeff Mcdonald, San Antonio Express-News, "San Antonio Spurs' DeMar DeRozan praised for gutsy performance after father's death," 28 Feb. 2021 These numbers pale in comparison to the other Democrats seeking to replace him, all of whom raised more than Mr. Vance. Deanna Paul, WSJ, "Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Unlikely to Run for Fourth Term," 25 Jan. 2021 But these issues pale in comparison to the inability of some firms to exit the AI experimentation phase and enter the era of large-scale production. Michael Spellacy, Forbes, "Go Big Or Go Home: Asset & Wealth Managers Need To Seize The Day On AI," 11 Mar. 2021 But those changes pale in comparison with those he has been forced to make during the pandemic. New York Times, "Lessons From a Year of Pandemic Spending," 7 Mar. 2021 Now having solidified himself as the Orioles’ primary catcher in his third season with the club, Severino’s latest challenge might pale in comparison to those in his past. Jon Meoli,, "‘Nothing was easy’: How a fear of the ball and a father’s push led Orioles catcher Pedro Severino to the big leagues," 4 Mar. 2021 Even if, in some hypothetical world, dozens of people had fatal reactions every day—again, this is not happening—that would pale in comparison with the damage the virus is doing. James Hamblin, The Atlantic, "Ask Dr. Hamblin: I Have Allergies. Should I Still Get the Vaccine?," 23 Dec. 2020

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for pale

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for pale

Last Updated

10 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Pale.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Apr. 2021.

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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

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Comments on pale

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