Pales into insignificance

Posted by TheFallen on February 20, 2003

In Reply to: Pales into insignificance posted by Taz on February 20, 2003

: Does anyone know where the use of "Pale" comes from?

I think so. The verb "to pale" is being used in its most common meaning, namely to lose colour, or to become dim or faint. An object that pales becomes less conspicuous and therefore by analogy, less important. A very similar phrase using "pale" in this way would be "to pale into the background".

The following cut 'n' paste from the American Heritage Dictionary, with sense 2 of the intransitive verb being the one to note:-

ADJECTIVE: 1. Whitish in complexion; pallid. 2. a. Of a low intensity of color; light. b. Having high lightness and low saturation. 3. Of a low intensity of light; dim or faint. 4. Feeble; weak.
TRANSITIVE VERB: To cause to turn pale.
INTRANSITIVE VERB: 1. To become pale; blanch. 2. To decrease in relative importance.

ETYMOLOGY: Middle English, from Old French, from Latin pallidus, from pallere, to be pale