Word Confusion: Bail versus Bale

Posted January 11, 2013 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

I recently ran across this confusion in an historical mystery and it bothered me. I always thought one bailed out of a plane; I’m not sure why the author thought throwing bales of hay out the plane would work if it left the heroine on board.

It’s odd how one’s mind can play tricks on one…

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.

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Bail Bale
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Online Etymology Dictionary

“Bail” courtesy of Martha’s Vineyard Museum

“Grass Hay” by David Shankbone is under the GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons

Part of Grammar:
Noun 1, 2;
Verb, intransitive & transitive 1, 3

Plural for the noun: bail
Third person present verb: bails
Past tense or past participle: bailed
Gerund or present participle: bailing

Noun 4, 5; Verb, transitive 4

Plural for the noun: bales
Third person present verb: bales
Past tense or past participle: baled
Gerund or present participle: baling

British alternate spelling for bail

Temporary release of an accused person awaiting trial, sometimes on condition that a sum of money be lodged to guarantee their appearance in court 1

  • Money paid for the release an accused person as security

A bar that holds something in place, in particular 2:

  • [Fishing] A bar that guides fishing line on a reel
  • A bar on a typewriter or computer printer that holds the paper steady
  • [Mountaineering] A bar on a crampon that fits into a groove in the sole of a boot
  • A bar separating horses in an open stable

An arched handle, such as on a bucket or a teapot

[Usually bails; Cricket] Either of the two crosspieces bridging the stumps, which the bowler and fielders try to dislodge with the ball to get the batsman out.

Verb, intransitive: 3
Abandon a commitment, obligation, or responsibility

  • [Bail on; North American; informal] Let someone down by failing to fulfill a commitment, obligation, or responsibility

Verb, transitive:
Usually be bailed

Release or secure the release of a prisoner on payment of bail 1

Scoop water out of a ship or boat 3

A bundle of paper, hay, cotton, etc., tightly wrapped and bound with cords or hoops 4

  • The quantity in a bale as a measure, especially 500 pounds of cotton

[Archaic or literary] Evil considered as a destructive force 5

  • Evil suffered
  • Physical torment or mental suffering

A group of turtles

Verb, transitive:
Make something into bales

Will George stand my bail?

He has been released on bail.

The jerk jumped bail and his mother will lose her house.

The chest has drawers fitted with brass bail handles.

Verb, intransitive:
After 12 years of this, including Sunday Mass with the family, I bailed.

He looks a little like the guy who bailed on me.

Verb, transitive:
I am so ready to bail out of this mess.

His son called home to get bailed out of jail.

The first priority is to bail out the boat with buckets.

I started to use my hands to bail out the water.

He bailed out of the stalled plane.

Heft that bale of hay.

Lift that barge, tote that bale.

The fire destroyed 500 bales of hay.

Most baling and field work have been finished.

We’ll have to get the baling done before the storms strike.

She brought tidings of bale.

“Relieve my spirit from the bale that bows it down” – Benjamin Disraeli.

Verb, transitive:
Bale the newspaper for recycling, would you?

They baled a lot of good hay.

Adjective: bailable
Noun: bailer, bailout
Adjective: baleful, baleless
Adverb: balefully
Noun: balefulness, baler, baling
Phrasal Verb
bail out
bail someone out
bail something out
History of the Word:
Late Middle English (1375-1425)

1 1610s

Middle English from the Old French, literally meaning custody or jurisdiction from the Old French bailler meaning take charge of, from the Latin bajulare meaning bear a burden.

2 Ca. 1742

Middle English denoting the outer wall of a castle from the Old French baile meaning palisade or enclosure, from baillier meaning enclose; perhaps from the Latin baculum meaning rod or stick.

3 Early 17th century from the obsolete bail meaning bucket from the French baille, which is based on the Latin bajulus meaning carrier.

Middle English (1350-1400)

4 Middle English and probably from the Middle Dutch and then from the Old French, but ultimately of Germanic origin.

5 Old English balu or bealu is of Germanic origin.

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!

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

720th Special Tactics Group of Airmen Jump” was photographed by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter and is in the public domain. “All-American Bale Out” photographed by Ildar Sagdejev under the Free Content license. Both are via Wikimedia Commons.

One response to “Word Confusion: Bail versus Bale

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