• Stalk


    • RP enPR: stôk, IPA: /stɔːk/
    • US enPR: stôk, IPA: /stɔk/
    • cot-caught IPA: /stɑk/
    • Homophones: stork (non-rhotic accents)
    • Rhymes: -ɔːk

    Origin 1

    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")).

    Full definition of 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 1, 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.
    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.
    6. (zoology) A stem or peduncle, as in certain barnacles and crinoids.
    7. (zoology) The narrow basal portion of the abdomen of a hymenopterous insect.
    8. (zoology) The peduncle of the eyes of decapod crustaceans.
    9. (metalworking) An iron bar with projections inserted in a core to strengthen it; a core arbor.

    Origin 2

    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")).

    Robert K. Barnhart and Sol Steinmetz, eds., Chambers Dictionary of Etymology, s.v. "stalk


    " (New York: Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd., 2006), 1057.

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


    1. (transitive) To approach slowly and quietly in order not to be discovered when getting closer.
      • Sir Walter ScottAs for shooting a man from behind a wall, it is cruelly like to stalking a deer.
      • 1907, w, The Younger Set Chapter 1/2, 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 (Stalking).My ex-boyfriend is stalking me.
    3. (intransitive) To walk slowly and cautiously; to walk in a stealthy, noiseless manner.
      • DrydenBertran stalks close behind her, like a witch's fiend,
        Pressing to be employed.
    4. (intransitive) To walk behind something, such as a screen, for the purpose of approaching game; to proceed under cover.
      • Francis BaconThe king ... crept under the shoulder of his led horse; ... "I must stalk," said he.
      • DraytonOne underneath his horse, to get a shoot doth stalk.



    (plural stalks)
    1. A particular episode of trying to follow or contact someone.
    2. (of wild animals) A hunt.

    Related terms

    Origin 3

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


    1. (intransitive) To walk haughtily.
      • DrydenWith manly mien he stalked along the ground.
      • AddisonThen stalking through the deep,
        He fords the ocean.
      • MericaleI forbear myself from entering the lists in which he has long stalked alone and unchallenged.


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