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[beyl-fuh l] /ˈbeɪl fəl/
full of menacing or malign influences; pernicious.
Obsolete. wretched; miserable.
Origin of baleful
before 1000; Middle English; Old English bealofull. See bale2, -ful
Related forms
balefully, adverb
balefulness, noun
Can be confused
baleful, baneful.
1. harmful, malign, injurious, detrimental; evil, wicked; deadly. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for baleful
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Of all mortal possessions they are the most useless, mischievous, and baleful.

    Imogen William Godwin
  • THEN the baleful fiend its fire belched out, and bright homes burned.

    Beowulf Anonymous
  • Richard paled under the baronet's baleful, half-sneering glance.

    Mistress Wilding Rafael Sabatini
  • Gian Maria returned him no answer, but his baleful eye was upon Martino.

    Love-at-Arms Raphael Sabatini
  • As he disappeared her beautiful face darkened with a baleful cloud.

    Victor's Triumph Mrs. E. D. E. N. Southworth
  • This was, of course, Mary Grey, bound upon her baleful errand.

    Victor's Triumph Mrs. E. D. E. N. Southworth
  • Bill cast a baleful glance at his rival and thrust 247 out his chin insolently.

    Hidden Water Dane Coolidge
  • There was not an artifice I did not practise to cure myself of this baleful infatuation.

    Gerald Fitzgerald Charles James Lever
  • The regard they fixed on his face was baleful in its intentness.

British Dictionary definitions for baleful


harmful, menacing, or vindictive
(archaic) dejected
Derived Forms
balefully, adverb
balefulness, noun
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
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Word Origin and History for baleful

Old English bealu-full "dire, wicked, cruel," from bealu "harm, injury, ruin, evil, mischief, wickedness, a noxious thing," from Proto-Germanic *balwom (cf. Old Saxon balu, Old Frisian balu "evil," Old High German balo "destruction," Old Norse bol, Gothic balwjan "to torment"), from PIE root *bheleu- "to beat." During Anglo-Saxon times, the noun was in poetic use only (e.g. bealubenn "mortal wound," bealuðonc "evil thought"), and for long baleful was extinct, but it was revived by modern romantic poets. Related: Balefully.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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