I can't make sense of this sentence that I saw in Longman Dictionary.

Jezrael could see her imminence paling as she strove for greater calm.

Paling as a noun means fence. But then what is imminence doing here? I know pale could be a verb meaning to fade or become whiter/less important, but that dictionary page lists this sentence as an example for the noun paling. If here paling is the present particle of pale, what does the sentence mean?

  • The sentence makes no sense whatsoever. Also, "paling" is a word that few (if any) native speakers would recognize. I would forget about this odd example.
    – Andrew
    Sep 29, 2017 at 5:29
  • 1
    To be clear, most native speaker would recognize paling in the context of losing color/fading, just not as a noun related to fencing.
    – 1006a
    Sep 29, 2017 at 6:49

3 Answers 3


If we assume "paling" to be the verb, the sentence seems old-fashioned but reasonably constructed. This may be a sensible paraphrasing:

Jezrael could see her urgency fading as she strove for greater calm.


If we assume "paling" to be the noun, I can make no sense of it at all:

Jezrael could see her immediacy fence-face-material as she strove for greater calm.


It looks like Longman put this example sentence under the wrong definition. There's no way to verify it without seeing the original sentence in its original context, but it looks like a dord.


This is extremely likely to be an OCR error, as the sentence is illogical, ungrammatical, and certainly does not have anything to do with the definition it's paired with.

The original sentence as printed is much more likely to have read something like this:

Jezrael could see Her Eminence paling as she strove for greater calm.

In this case, "Her Eminence" is a title used of some noblewoman (meaning roughly the same as "Her Highness" etymologically, but presumably used in slightly different cases), although that's not one in common usage, as far as I know, in Britain, which makes this a bit dubious. (But since Jezrael is not a commonly used name in English, this may actually fit well, if the citation is from some fictional source that makes use of unusual titles and names.) "Paling" is a verb: "to pale" is to change colors toward light or white hues.

Alternatively, supposing a more substantial error in the software, it may have read like this:

Jezrael could see her countenance paling as she strove for greater calm.

In this case it just means that a lady's face ("countenance", an old-fashioned word) was becoming pale in the process of trying to keep calm.

  • 1
    Isn't His Eminence as a title used most commonly to refer to a cardinal? As of now, women are not accepted as cardinals. So as you say, the "Her Eminence" scenario sounds fictional.
    – Eddie Kal
    Sep 29, 2017 at 16:28

Hmm. This is a new definition of "paling" for me. Maybe it's familiar to carpenters but probably not to the average English speaker.

"imminence" means the state of being about to happen. As in, "The imminence of war led us to stockpile supplies."

But "imminence" is a noun, and if "paling" here is a noun, then we have two nouns in a row. Sometimes a noun is used as adjective, like "car parts" meaning "parts of the type used on a car". But a wooden post of type that is about to happen soon? And what would a person becoming calm have to do with fence posts happening soon? It just doesn't make sense. And we use nouns as adjectives when there is no adjective form. But there's a perfectly good adjective form of "imminence", namely "imminent".

I wonder if this sentence was supposed to be, "Jezrael could see her impatience paling as she strove for greater calm." With "paling" being used as a verb meaning "to become thinner or lighter". As Jezrael tried to make herself calm, her impatience faded away. That would make sense. But it would have anything to do with "paling" as a noun so maybe I'm grasping here.

I think the sentence is a mistake in one way or another.

  • The "fence" sense of "pale" is related to the idiom beyond the pale, which is the only reason I know about it :)
    – ColleenV
    Sep 29, 2017 at 11:40

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