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



poise (countable and uncountable, plural poises)

  1. A state of balance, equilibrium or stability.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Bentley to this entry?)
  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 centimeter.
  6. (obsolete) Weight; an amount of weight, the amount something weighs.
    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, I.xii:
      as an huge rockie clift, / Whose false foundation waues haue washt away, / With dreadfull poyse is from the mayneland rift, / [] So downe he fell []
  7. The weight, or mass of metal, used in weighing, to balance the substance weighed.
  8. That which causes a balance; a counterweight.
    • John Dryden
      Men of unbounded imagination often want the poise of judgment.

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Related termsEdit



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.
    • Longfellow
      The slender, graceful spars / Poise aloft in air.
  2. (obsolete) To counterpoise; to counterbalance.
    • Shakespeare
      one scale of reason to poise another of sensuality
    • Dryden
      to poise with solid sense a sprightly wit
  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.]
    • 1597, William Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet, I.2:
      you saw her faire none els being by, / Her selfe poysd with her selfe in either eye.
  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
    • Dryden
      Nor yet was earth suspended in the sky; / Nor poised, did on her own foundation lie.
  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.
    • South
      He cannot sincerely consider the strength, poise the weight, and discern the evidence.

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Further readingEdit


Old FrenchEdit

Alternative formsEdit


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)