n.1.A pole set up as the sign of an alehouse.
Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, published 1913 by G. & C. Merriam Co.
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The Romans used to advertise drinking taverns by growing it on a pole outside the inn - later called an alepole. In the Middle Ages doctors made strange claims about its medicinal properties but it was the Victorians who recognised the ornamental value of this easy-to-grow plant.
Reformer John Frith argued that "an alepole is not the ale self which it doth signifie or represent," and a person who seeks salvation in outward signs might just as well "goe and sucke an alepole, trusting to get drinke out of it" (341).