adj., v.

(1) 'cheap', in phrase fale of 'unconcerned about'; (2) 'descend'
  (Modern English )


The identity of <fale> in Pat 92 ('þaʒ þe fader þat hym formed were fale of his hele') has been disputed, although (1) most commentators (so MED, AW, McGee, Anderson and (implicitly) McGillivray) follow Gollancz in interpreting this word as an adj. and a hapax legomenon, derived from ON, cp. OIcel fal-r 'venal, to be sold' < PGmc *fala-, cp. OHG fali 'saleable'. As Gollancz notes, this would closely parallel the Scandinavian usage, and it provides the best sense for the line. (2) Vant perhaps most implausibly argues that <fale> could be construed as a form of the native reflex of the common Gmc st. v. *fallan- 'to fall', here 'descend', and takes the line to mean 'even if the Father who formed him were to descend on his hiding place'. This also requires an unlikely identification of hele as a rare n. instead of the recurring adj.

PGmc Ancestor

(1) *fala-;  (2) *fallan-

Proposed ON Etymon (OIcel representative)

(1) falr 'venal, to be sold'
(ONP falr (2) (adj.))

Other Scandinavian Reflexes

Far falur, Icel falur, Norw fal, Dan fal, Sw fal

OE Cognate

Phonological and morphological markers

Summary category



(1) hapax legomenon; (2) common and widespread, but this would be an unusual spelling.

Occurrences in the Gersum Corpus

Pat 92

See etymological discussion for the debate about the sense of this word in context, and further Anderson 92n, Vant 92n and McGillivray 92n. Against Bateson (92n)'s alternative suggestion 'fellow, comrade', see McGee 428.


MED fāle (adj.) , OED fale (adj.) , de Vries falr (3), Mag. fala (1), Orel *falaz; (2) MED fallen (v.) , OED fall (v.) , HTOED , Orel *fallanan, Kroonen *fallan-, Seebold Fall-a-, DOE feallan, AEW feallan