stale

Definitions

General English

Banking

  • adjective referring to a cheque which is so old, that the bank will not clear it unless it has been confirmed as correct by the payer

Investing

  • adjective referring to a cheque which is so old, that the bank will not clear it unless it has been confirmed as correct by the payer

Wine

  • used to describe a wine that is lifeless, without any fresh, lively qualities

Origin & History of “stale”

Something that is stale has etymologically been allowed to ‘stand’ – so that it is no longer fresh. The word comes from Old French estale ‘stationary’, a derivative of estaler ‘halt’ (from which English gets the verb stall). And this in turn goes back ultimately to the prehistoric Germanic base *sta- ‘stand’. Stale originally denoted wine, beer, etc that had ‘stood’ long enough for the sediment to clear (‘If mead is well sod (boiled) and stale it is liking to the taste’, John de Trevisa, De proprietatibus rerum 1398), and it was not until the early 16th century that derogatory connotations of lack of freshness began to creep in.
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