from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A large package of raw or finished material tightly bound with twine or wire and often wrapped: a bale of hay.
  • transitive v. To wrap in a bale or in bales: a machine that bales cotton.
  • n. Evil: "Tidings of bale she brought” ( William Cullen Bryant).
  • n. Mental suffering; anguish: "Relieve my spirit from the bale that bows it down” ( Benjamin Disraeli).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Evil, especially considered as an active force for destruction or death.
  • n. Suffering, woe, torment.
  • n. A large fire, a conflagration or bonfire.
  • n. A funeral pyre.
  • n. A beacon-fire.
  • n. A rounded bundle or package of goods in a cloth cover, and corded for storage or transportation.
  • n. A bundle of compressed wool or hay, compacted for shipping and handling.
  • n. A measurement of hay equal to 10 flakes. Approximately 70-90 lbs (32-41 kg).
  • n. A measurement of paper equal to 10 reams.
  • v. To wrap into a bale.
  • v. To remove water from a boat with buckets etc.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A bundle or package of goods in a cloth cover, and corded for storage or transportation; also, a bundle of straw, hay, etc., put up compactly for transportation.
  • n. Misery; calamity; misfortune; sorrow.
  • n. Evil; an evil, pernicious influence; something causing great injury.
  • transitive v. To make up in a bale.
  • transitive v. See bail, v. t., to lade.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To make up into a bale or bales.
  • See bail, bail, bail, bail.
  • n. Evil; woe; calamity; misery; that which causes ruin, destruction, or sorrow.
  • n. A large fire built out of doors and burning freely; a bonfire. specifically—
  • n. A large bundle or package of merchandise prepared for transportation, either in a cloth cover, corded or banded, or without cover, but compressed and secured by transverse bands, wires, or withes and longitudinal slats.
  • n. A pair or set of dice.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a city in northwestern Switzerland
  • n. a large bundle bound for storage or transport
  • v. make into a bale


Middle English, from Old French.
Middle English, from Old English bealu.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Old English bealo, from Proto-Germanic *balwô. Cognate with Gothic 𐌱𐌰𐌻𐍅𐌴𐌹𐌽𐍃 (balweins, "torture"), Old High German balo ("destruction"), Old Norse bǫl ("disaster"). (Wiktionary)
Old English bǣl, from Proto-Germanic *bēlō, from Proto-Indo-European. Cognate with Old Norse bál (which may have been the direct source for the English word). (Wiktionary)
Precise derivation uncertain: perhaps from Old French bale, balle, from Medieval Latin balla ("ball, rounded package"), from Germanic; or perhaps from Dutch baal, itself borrowed from French. (Wiktionary)
Alternative spelling of bail (Wiktionary)



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  • Along with the common meaning indicated by Wordnet ("a bale of hay"), this word has an interesting etymological distinct archaic meaning, "destructive evil", which gives us the word baleful, "menacing; having a harmful effect".

    January 16, 2009