From Middle English poys, poyse, from Anglo-Norman pois, Middle French pois (weight) and Anglo-Norman poise, Middle French poise (measure of weight), from Latin pēnsāre (to ponder, weight, think).


  • enPR: poyz, IPA(key): /pɔɪz/
    • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɔɪz


poise (countable and uncountable, plural poises)

  1. A state of balance, equilibrium or stability.
    • 1692, Richard Bentley, [A Confutation of Atheism] (please specify the sermon), London: [Thomas Parkhurst; Henry Mortlock], published 1692–1693:
      plants and animals, which are all made up of and nourished by water, and perhaps never return to water again, do not keep things at a poise
  2. Composure; freedom from embarrassment or affectation.
  3. Mien; bearing or deportment of the head or body.
  4. A condition of hovering, or being suspended.
  5. (physics) A CGS unit of dynamic viscosity equal to one dyne-second per square centimetre.
    • 1959, E. A. Apps, Printing Ink Technology (page 415)
      Letterpress and offset gloss varnishes normally have viscosities varying from 50 to 250 poises; they must stain the paper as little as possible, have insufficient tack to cause plucking, []
  6. (obsolete) Weight; an amount of weight, the amount something weighs.
  7. The weight, or mass of metal, used in weighing, to balance the substance weighed.
  8. That which causes a balance; a counterweight.

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poise (third-person singular simple present poises, present participle poising, simple past and past participle poised)

  1. (obsolete) To hang in equilibrium; to be balanced or suspended; hence, to be in suspense or doubt.
  2. (obsolete) To counterpoise; to counterbalance.
  3. (obsolete) To be of a given weight; to weigh. [14th–17th c.]
  4. (obsolete) To add weight to, to weigh down. [16th–18th c.]
  5. (now rare) To hold (something) with or against something else in equilibrium; to balance, counterpose. [from 16th c.]
  6. To hold (something) in equilibrium, to hold balanced and ready; to carry (something) ready to be used. [from 16th c.]
    I poised the crowbar in my hand, and waited.
    to poise the scales of a balance
    • 1717, John Dryden, “Book I”, in Ovid’s Metamorphoses in Fifteen Books. [], London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], OCLC 731548838:
      Nor yet was earth suspended in the sky; / Nor poised, did on her own foundation lie.
    • 1964 November, J. H. Lucking, “The Salisbury-Exeter rationalisation—first results and local reaction”, in Modern Railways, page 331:
      The intention to close [Yeovil] Pen Mill was therefore abandoned and instead the economy axe was re-poised over Yeovil Junction.
  7. To keep (something) in equilibrium; to hold suspended or balanced. [from 17th c.]
    The rock was poised precariously on the edge of the cliff.
  8. To ascertain, as if by balancing; to weigh.
    • 1692–1717, Robert South, Twelve Sermons Preached upon Several Occasions, volume (please specify |volume=I to VI), 6th edition, London: [] J[ames] Bettenham, for Jonah Bowyer, [], published 1727, OCLC 21766567:
      He cannot sincerely consider the strength, poise the weight, and discern the evidence.

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Old FrenchEdit

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poise f (oblique plural poises, nominative singular poise, nominative plural poises)

  1. weight
  2. a unit of measure of unknown value (which presumably varied because of the technology of the time)


  • English: poise


  • Godefroy, Frédéric, Dictionnaire de l'ancienne langue française et de tous ses dialectes du IXe au XVe siècle (1881) (poise)