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  1. a large bundle or package prepared for shipping, storage, or sale, especially one tightly compressed and secured by wires, hoops, cords, or the like, and sometimes having a wrapping or covering: a bale of cotton; a bale of hay.
  2. a group of turtles.
verb (used with object), baled, bal·ing.
  1. to make or form into bales: to bale wastepaper for disposal.

Origin of bale1

1350–1400; Middle English < Anglo-Latin bala, Anglo-French bale pack, bale < Frankish *balla; compare Old High German balo, akin to balla ball1
Related formsbale·less, adjectivebal·er, noun


noun Archaic.
  1. evil; harm; misfortune.
  2. woe; misery; sorrow.

Origin of bale2

before 1000; Middle English; Old English bealu, balu; cognate with Old Norse bǫl, Old Saxon balu, Old High German balo, Gothic balw-; akin to Russian bolʾ pain, OCS bolŭ ill


  1. bail2.


verb (used with or without object), baled, bal·ing.
  1. bail3(defs 1–3).


  1. French name of Basel.


or bale

  1. the semicircular handle of a kettle or pail.
  2. a hooplike support, as for the canvas cover on a Conestoga wagon.
  3. a metal band or bar equipped with rollers for holding a sheet or sheets of paper against the platen of a printing press, typewriter, etc.

Origin of bail2

1400–50; late Middle English beyl, perhaps < Old Norse; compare Old Norse beyglast to become bent, equivalent to baug(r) ring (see bee2) + *-il noun suffix + -ast middle infinitive suffix


verb (used with object)
  1. to dip (water) out of a boat, as with a bucket.
  2. to clear of water by dipping (usually followed by out): to bail out a boat.
verb (used without object)
  1. to bail water.
  1. Also bail·er. a bucket, dipper, or other container used for bailing.
Verb Phrases
  1. bail out,
    1. to make a parachute jump from an airplane.
    2. to relieve or assist (a person, company, etc.) in an emergency situation, especially a financial crisis: The corporation bailed out its failing subsidiary through a series of refinancing operations.
    3. to give up on or abandon something, as to evade a responsibility: His partner bailed out before the business failed.
Also bale (for defs 1–3).

Origin of bail3

1425–75; late Middle English bayle < Middle French baille a bucket < Vulgar Latin *bāi(u)la; akin to Latin bāiulus carrier. See bail1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for bale

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • I have entrusted my bale to Leonhard Tucher and given over my white cloth to him.

    Albert Durer

    T. Sturge Moore

  • Folk of the land it had lapped in flame, with bale and brand.



  • Then he sat down on a bale of hay and took stock of his misfortunes.

    Old Man Curry</p>

    Charles E. (Charles Emmett) Van Loan

  • My lawyer tells me, that every bale and every part of the bales must be equal to the sample.

    Bremen Cotton Exchange

    Andreas Wilhelm Cramer

  • But he pulled me off the bale by the leg, and that woke me up so I sensed what he was saying.

    Cape Cod Stories

    Joseph C. Lincoln

British Dictionary definitions for bale


  1. a large bundle, esp of a raw or partially processed material, bound by ropes, wires, etc, for storage or transportationbale of hay
  2. a large package or carton of goods
  3. US 500 pounds of cotton
  4. a group of turtles
  5. Australian and NZ See wool bale
  1. to make (hay, etc) into a bale or bales
  2. to put (goods) into packages or cartons
  3. Australian and NZ to pack and compress (wool) into wool bales
See also bail out

Word Origin

C14: probably from Old French bale, from Old High German balla ball 1


noun archaic
  1. evil; injury
  2. woe; suffering; pain

Word Origin

Old English bealu; related to Old Norse böl evil, Gothic balwa, Old High German balo


  1. a variant spelling of bail 2


  1. a variant spelling of bail 4


  1. the French name for Basle


  1. a sum of money by which a person is bound to take responsibility for the appearance in court of another person or himself or herself, forfeited if the person fails to appear
  2. the person or persons so binding themselves; surety
  3. the system permitting release of a person from custody where such security has been takenhe was released on bail
  4. jump bail or formal forfeit bail to fail to appear in court to answer to a charge
  5. stand bail or go bail to act as surety (for someone)
verb (tr)
  1. (often foll by out) to release or obtain the release of (a person) from custody, security having been made
See also bail out

Word Origin

C14: from Old French: custody, from baillier to hand over, from Latin bāiulāre to carry burdens, from bāiulus carrier, of obscure origin



  1. (often foll by out) to remove (water) from (a boat)
Derived Formsbailer or baler, noun

Word Origin

C13: from Old French baille bucket, from Latin bāiulus carrier


  1. cricket either of two small wooden bars placed across the tops of the stumps to form the wicket
  2. agriculture
    1. a partition between stalls in a stable or barn, for horses
    2. a portable dairy house built on wheels or skids
  3. Australian and NZ a framework in a cowshed used to secure the head of a cow during milking
  1. See bail up

Word Origin

C18: from Old French baile stake, fortification, probably from Latin baculum stick



  1. the semicircular handle of a kettle, bucket, etc
  2. a semicircular support for a canopy
  3. a movable bar on a typewriter that holds the paper against the platen

Word Origin

C15: probably of Scandinavian origin; compare Old Norse beygja to bend
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for bale


"large bundle or package," early 14c., from Old French bale "rolled-up bundle," from a Germanic source (cf. Old High German balla "ball"), from Proto-Germanic *ball-, from PIE *bhel- (2) "to blow, swell" (see bole).



"bond money," late 15c., a sense that apparently developed from that of "temporary release from jail" (into the custody of another, who gives security), recorded from early 15c. That evolved from earlier meaning "captivity, custody" (early 14c.). From Old French baillier "to control, to guard, deliver" (12c.), from Latin bajulare "to bear a burden," from bajulus "porter," of unknown origin. In late 18c. criminal slang, to give leg bail meant "to run away."



"to dip water out of," 1610s, from baile (n.) "small wooden bucket" (mid-14c.), from nautical Old French baille "bucket, pail," from Medieval Latin *bajula (aquae), literally "porter of water," from Latin bajulare "to bear a burden" (see bail (n.1)). To bail out "leave suddenly" (intransitive) is recorded from 1930, originally of airplane pilots. Related: Bailed; bailing.



"horizontal piece of wood in a cricket wicket," c.1742, originally "any cross bar" (1570s), probably identical with Middle French bail "horizontal piece of wood affixed on two stakes," and with English bail "palisade wall, outer wall of a castle" (see bailey).



"to procure someone's release from prison" (by posting bail), 1580s, from bail (n.1); usually with out. Related: Bailed; bailing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with bale


In addition to the idiom beginning with bail

also see:

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

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