Pail vs. Pale

Photo of author


Pail and pale are two words that are pronounced in the same manner but are spelled differently and have different meanings. They are homophones. We will examine the difference between the definitions of pail and pale, where these two words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

A pail is a bucket, most often made out of metal or wood, with a half-circle handle. Pails are used for a variety of things, but most often, to carry liquids such as water or paint, or animal feed. The word pail is derived from the Old French words paele and paelle, meaning cooking pan or a liquid measure.

Pale describes something light in color or something with little or no pigment, something white or near-white. Pale may describe the complexion of a person who is ill or in shock, or it may describe something of a light color, nearly pigmentless. Pale may also describe something that is inferior to another thing. Pale also may be used as a noun to mean a stake, that along with other stakes, makes up a fence. Pale also means a boundary or enclosure. Pale is used as a noun, an adjective or an intransitive verb, which is a verb that does not take an object. Related words are pales, paled, paling, paler, paleness. The word pale meaning light in color is derived from Latin word pallidus, meaning without color, pallid. The word pale to mean fence stake is derived from the Latin word palus, meaning wooden post or stake.


The pails are reusable therefore a great value for many families who will use this for storing water for household use and those that now have a permanent flour storing container. (The Fiji Sun)

Mike looked thinner and pale in a snap taken outside, as he covered up in a long tanned coat. (The Sun)

As many observers from across the political spectrum have noted, most notably Ron Paul, it is beyond the pale of hypocrisy for the United States to sanctimoniously complain about foreign meddling in elections, when our government has meddled in dozens of foreign elections for decades, if not centuries. (The PanAm Post)

Enjoyed reading about these homophones? Check out some others we covered: