Word Confusion: Bald vs Balled vs Bawled

Posted February 6, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

I had to laugh at this one, when the bawled man patted his freshly waxed head. I hate to think that he had been bawling because he’d used a floor waxer to get that sheen on his bald pate…! If he did, he really balled it up.

In another heads-up, this trio of word confusions are heterographs.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

If you found this post on “Bald vs Balled vs Bawled” interesting, consider tweeting it to your friends. Subscribe to KD Did It, if you’d like to track this post for future updates.

Return to top

Bald Balled Bawled
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: bald, ball, and bawl; Merriam-Webster: bald

A bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus).

“Bald Eagle Portrait” is Saffron Blaze’s own work under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

Does this mean that if I let my hair go white, I’ll be bald?

The Grand Final of the Victorian Women's Football League, Division 1. Melbourne University MUGARS (black and blue) def. Darebin Falcons.

“Australian Rules ruck tap” is w:User:pfctdayelise’s own work, using a Casio QV-R41, and under the CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0] license, via Wikimedia Commons

The rucks reach for the ball after the umpire (in orange) has balled it up.

A young boy walks across the snow crying and leaving a trail

“The Tragedy” Wellcome Images.org under the CC BY 4.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

Yep, he bawled every step of the way.

Part of Grammar:
Adjective; Noun;
Verb, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: balds
Past tense or past participle: balded
Gerund or present participle: balding

Past tense or past participle for ball

Noun 1, 2, 3;
Verb 1, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: balls
Gerund or present participle: balling

Past tense or past participle for bawl

Noun; Verb, intransitive, reporting, and transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: bawls
Gerund or present participle: bawling

Having a scalp wholly or partly lacking hair

  • [Zoology] Not covered by the usual fur, hair, or feathers
  • [Of a plant or an area of land] Not covered by the usual leaves, bark, or vegetation
  • [Of a tire] Having the tread worn away

[Attrib.] Not having any extra detail or explanation

  • Plain or blunt
  • Bare
  • Unadorned



[Zoology] Having white on the head

  • Marked with white

[Chiefly South Midland and Southern U.S.; often uses an initial capital letter] A treeless mountaintop or area near the top

  • Often used as part of a proper name

Verb, intransitive:
To become bald

Verb, transitive:
To make bald

A solid or hollow sphere or ovoid, especially one that is kicked, thrown, or hit in a game 1

  • A ball-shaped object
  • [Historical] A solid nonexplosive missile for a firearm
  • [North American] A game played with a ball, especially baseball

[In baseball] A pitch delivered outside the strike zone that the batter does not attempt to hit

  • [In soccer] A pass of the ball in a specified direction or manner

A round mass of food, as of chopped meat, dough, or candy

[In full the ball of the foot] The rounded protuberant part of the foot at the base of the big toe

  • [In full the ball of the thumb] The rounded protuberant part of the hand at the base of the thumb

A social function for dancing, especially one that is lavish or formal 2

[Informal] A very enjoyable time (especially in the phrase have a ball)

A testicle 3

  • Nut

Verb, intransitive:
[Usually ball up] Squeeze or form something into a rounded shape

  • Form a round shape

[North American vulgar slang] To have sexual intercourse

Verb, transitive:
[Usually ball up] Squeeze or form something into a rounded shape

  • Clench or screw up (one’s fist) tightly
  • Wrap the rootball of a tree or shrub in burlap to protect it during transportation

[North American vulgar slang] Have sexual intercourse with

[Sometimes followed by up] To make into a ball

To wind into balls

A loud, unrestrained shout

A period or spell of loud crying or weeping

[Chiefly Midland and Western U.S.] The noise made by a calf

Verb, intransitive:
Weep or cry noisily

  • Wail

Verb, reporting:
Shout or call out noisily and unrestrainedly

Verb, transitive:
Shout or call out noisily and unrestrainedly

To utter or proclaim by outcry

He had a shiny bald head.

He was starting to go bald.

Hedgehogs are born bald.

It was odd to see all those bald trunks with their empty branches.

Dang, my car has two bald tires.

The bald statement in the preceding paragraph requires amplification.

The Spy Who Came In From the Cold … remains the crucial introduction to le Carré’s cool moral universe — his bald, adjective-free prose style…” (Dwight Garner).

That’s a bald lie!

The Kentresses just bought a bald-faced mare.

Omigod! Paul was bald as a coot!

He certainly had a bald arrogance!

I love that rug! I don’t care if it is going bald!

They’re heading for Bald Mountain.

Verb, intransitive:
Your uncle is balding with age.

Verb, transitive:
You’re balding that dog with all the brushing.

Guys! Jamie got a new soccer ball.

Ellen sighed, as she realized that her ball of wool was almost gone.

He crushed the card into a ball.

He sat, carefully pouring lead into a mold to make balls.

“C’mon, Nancy. Kids have been playing ball in that lot for almost a hundred years.”

Roll the dough into a ball and set it on the cookie sheet.

The umpire called it a ball.

Whelan sent a long ball to Goddard.

When tiptoeing, one’s weight is on the ball of the foot.

The life line starts between the thumb and the forefinger and encircles the ball of the thumb towards the wrist.

The Vanderbilts are giving a ball.

We had a ball at the Vanderbilts’ ball.

Oh, god. That bitch kicked me in the balls.

Verb, intransitive:
The fishing nets eventually ball up and sink.

When the spun sugar balls, the candy has cooked sufficiently.

Verb, transitive:
Robert balled up his napkin and threw it onto his plate.

She balled her fist so that the nails dug into her palms.

Steve is out back, balling up the maples for that order.

“Didja hear? Freddie’s been balling Veronica.”

The children were balling up snow to make a snowman.

Come and help me ball this cotton.

He bawled out his orders.

It was a strong healthy calf, and too bad for everyone that his bawls carried so well in the night air.

Verb, intransitive:
She began to bawl like a child.

Joe bawled with laughter.

Verb, reporting:
“Move!” bawled the drill sergeant.

Verb, transitive:
Ol’ George was lustily bawling out the hymns.

Jim had to listen to Mary bawl out her disappointment.

Henry was so drunk at the last family dinner, bawling his senseless ditties to everyone at the table.

There was a peddler bawling his wares outside my window.

Adjective: bald-faced, bald-headed, balder, baldest, baldhead, balding, baldish, half-bald, semibald
Adverb: baldly
Noun: baldness, baldpate, baldy
Noun: baller Adjective: bawling
Noun: bawler, bawling
Verb, transitive: outbawl
Phrasal Verb
balled something up bawled someone out
History of the Word:
Middle English and probably from a base meaning white patch, whence the archaic sense of marked or streaked with white. 1 Middle English from the Old Norse bǫllr is of Germanic origin.

2 From the French noun bal and from the Old French verb baller, bot of which are from the Late Latin ballāre meaning to dance, which is from the Greek ballizein.

3 1300s+

Imitative from late Middle English in the sense (of an animal) howl, bark.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

Return to top

Pinterest Photo Credits:

“Loses Bet, Gets Head Shaved” is via Rebrn.

Leave a Reply