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Etymology 1Edit

From Middle English stalke, diminutive of stale 'ladder upright, stalk', from Old English stalu 'wooden upright', from Proto-Germanic *stalǭ (compare Middle Low German stal, stale 'chair leg'), variant of *steluz, stelōn 'stalk' (compare Old English stela, Dutch steel, German Stiel, Danish stilk), from Proto-Indo-European *stel- (compare Albanian shtalkë (crossbeam, board used as a door hinge), Welsh telm (frond), Ancient Greek stélos 'beam', Old Armenian ստեղն (stełn, trunk, stalk)).


stalk (plural stalks)

  1. The stem or main axis of a plant, which supports the seed-carrying parts.
    a stalk of wheat, rye, or oats;  the stalks of maize or hemp
    • 1914, Louis Joseph Vance, Nobody, chapter I:
      Three chairs of the steamer type, all maimed, comprised the furniture of this roof-garden, with [] on one of the copings a row of four red clay flower-pots filled with sun-baked dust from which gnarled and rusty stalks thrust themselves up like withered elfin limbs.
  2. The petiole, pedicel, or peduncle of a plant.
  3. Something resembling the stalk of a plant, such as the stem of a quill.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Grew to this entry?)
  4. (architecture) An ornament in the Corinthian capital resembling the stalk of a plant, from which the volutes and helices spring.
  5. One of the two upright pieces of a ladder.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Chaucer to this entry?)
  6. (zoology)
    1. A stem or peduncle, as in certain barnacles and crinoids.
    2. The narrow basal portion of the abdomen of a hymenopterous insect.
    3. The peduncle of the eyes of decapod crustaceans.
  7. (metalworking) An iron bar with projections inserted in a core to strengthen it; a core arbor.

Etymology 2Edit

From Middle English stalken, from Old English *stealcian (as in Old English bestealcian (to move stealthily), stealcung (stalking)), from Proto-Germanic *stalkōną 'to move stealthily' (compare Dutch stelkeren, stolkeren 'to tip-toe, tread carefully', Danish stalke (to high step, stalk), Norwegian dialectal stalka 'to trudge'), from *stalkaz, *stelkaz (compare Old English stealc 'steep', Old Norse stelkr, stjalkr (knot (bird), red sandpiper)), from Proto-Indo-European *(s)telg, *(s)tolg- (compare Middle Irish tolg (strength), Lithuanian stalgùs (stiff, defiant, proud)).[1]

Alternate etymology connects Proto-Germanic *stalkōną 'to stalk, move stealthily', to a frequentative form of Proto-Germanic *stelaną 'to steal'.


stalk (third-person singular simple present stalks, present participle stalking, simple past and past participle stalked)

  1. (transitive) To approach slowly and quietly in order not to be discovered when getting closer.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Sir Walter Scott
      As for shooting a man from behind a wall, it is cruelly like to stalking a deer.
    • 1907, Robert W[illiam] Chambers, chapter I, in The Younger Set, New York, N.Y.: D. Appleton & Company, OCLC 24962326:
      But they had already discovered that he could be bullied, and they had it their own way; and presently Selwyn lay prone upon the nursery floor, impersonating a ladrone while pleasant shivers chased themselves over Drina, whom he was stalking.
  2. (transitive) To (try to) follow or contact someone constantly, often resulting in harassment.Wp
    My ex-boyfriend is stalking me.
  3. (intransitive) To walk slowly and cautiously; to walk in a stealthy, noiseless manner.
    • (Can we date this quote?) John Dryden
      [Bertran] stalks close behind her, like a witch's fiend, / Pressing to be employed.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Shakespeare to this entry?)
  4. (intransitive) To walk behind something, such as a screen, for the purpose of approaching game; to proceed under cover.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Francis Bacon
      The king [] crept under the shoulder of his led horse; [] "I must stalk," said he.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Michael Drayton
      One underneath his horse, to get a shoot doth stalk.
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.


stalk (plural stalks)

  1. A particular episode of trying to follow or contact someone.
  2. A hunt (of a wild animal).
    • Theodore Roosevelt
      When the stalk was over (the antelope took alarm and ran off before I was within rifle shot) I came back.
Related termsEdit


  1. ^ Robert K. Barnhart and Sol Steinmetz, eds., Chambers Dictionary of Etymology, s.v. "stalk2" (New York: Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd., 2006), 1057.

Etymology 3Edit

1530, 'to walk haughtily', perhaps from Old English stealc 'steep', from Proto-Germanic *stelkaz, *stalkaz 'high, lofty, steep, stiff'; see above


stalk (third-person singular simple present stalks, present participle stalking, simple past and past participle stalked)

  1. (intransitive) To walk haughtily.
    • Dryden
      With manly mien he stalked along the ground.
    • Addison
      Then stalking through the deep, / He fords the ocean.
    • Mericale
      I forbear myself from entering the lists in which he has long stalked alone and unchallenged.