A dale is a broad, open river valley primarily associated with the north of England, where the inhabitants were called once dalesmen. The mountains and hills forming such valleys are called fells. Dale and fell are native English words that, after the Norman Conquest, were supplanted by the French-derived words valley and mountain. Etymologically, dale is similar to dell, the roots of both words meaning “deep or low place.” Dale appears frequently in Romantic and Victorian-era verse, and phrases such as “over hill and dale” or “up hill and down dale” are conventional phrases used by many writers, including W. E. B. Du Bois, Charles Darwin, and Theodore Roosevelt, to describe the repetitious ascent and descent when traveling across a terrain marked by hills and valleys. Dale is not used much in the United States except to fabricate meaningless place-names such as Scottsdale or Glendale, two suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona, where the Sonoran Desert dominates and the uplands of Great Britain could be nothing but wistful chimeras.

Michael Collier

Finding himself in the level wood-road, whose open aisle drew a long, straight streak across the sky, still luminous with the late-lingering Adirondack twilight, the tall young fugitive, hatless, coatless, and barefooted, paused a minute for reflection. As he paused, he listened; but all distinctiveness of sound was lost in the play of the wind, up hill and down dale, through chasm and over crag, in those uncounted leagues of forest.

— Basil King, The Wild Olive

More from Michael Collier

» see all 19

Related entries