Word Confusion: Hail versus Hale

Posted March 10, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

I was reading a book…yeah, yeah, big surprise *eye roll as I laugh* when I ran across a questionable use of hale, as in she haled the man, and it jerked me out of the story. No, she wasn’t pulling the man anywhere, so the author must have meant hail, hmmm

I re-read that sentence a few times, substituting hail for hale, and it worked better, for me anyway. Then I had to go back a few paragraphs to fall back into the words the writer wanted me to be paying attention to. Ya know, the ones that tell the story?

Still, the damage was done. I wasn’t in the story anymore. Instead I was leery, wondering when the author would hale me out again.

It can cause a to-do, using the wrong words.

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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Hail Hale
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Merriam Webster: Hale

“Hail!” photographed by Trevor Manteranch, Ballantine, USA, is under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons.

Not a hail storm I’d want to be out in!

“Runners” courtesy of Margan Zajdowicz, via FreeImages.

Runners are usually in hale condition.
Me? I’d be haling myself along.

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

Plural for noun and third person present verb: hails
Past tense or past participle: hailed
Gerund or present participle: hailing

Adjective; Verb, transitive

Third person present verb: hales
Past tense or past participle: haled
Gerund or present participle: haling

[Archaic] Used as a salutation

Used to express acclamation

Pellets of frozen rain that fall in showers from cumulonimbus clouds

  • [In singular] A large number of objects hurled forcefully through the air

A shout or call used to attract attention 3

Verb, intransitive:
Hail falls

[With adverbial of direction; of a large number of objects] Fall or be hurled forcefully

[Hail from] To be or have been native to or a resident of

To call out

  • To call a greeting to a passing ship

Verb, transitive:
Call out to someone to attract attention

  • Signal an approaching taxicab to stop

Acclaim enthusiastically as being a specified thing

  • Salute, greet
    • Greet as an esteemed person
[Of a person, especially an elderly one] Strong and healthy

Free from defect, disease, or infirmity


Retaining exceptional health and vigor

Verb, transitive:
[Archaic] Drag or draw forcibly

  • Drag into a place
  • Drag to a place
  • Drag before (a magistrate)

Haul, pull

Compel to go

All hail the King!

The hail is really coming down.

a hail of bullets

Verb, intransitive:
It’s really hailing out there!

It hails.

It is hailing.

It hailed so hard we had to stop.

Missiles and bombs hail down from the sky.

He hails from Pittsburgh.

Verb, transitive:
The crew hailed a fishing boat.

She raised her hand to hail a cab.

He has been hailed as the new James Dean.

For a sixty-year-old man, he’s very hale and hearty.

I feel hale in mind and body.

Verb, transitive:
He haled an old man out of the audience.

The fishermen haled the huge net onto the deck of the ship.

Noun: hailer, hailstone, hailstorm Adjective: halesome
Noun: haleness, haler
History of the Word:
1 First known use: 13th century

Its origins are the same as 4

2 First known use: before 12th century

Old English nouns hagol or hægl while hagalian, the verb, is of Germanic origin (Apple Dictionary.com) and akin to Old High German hagal, meaning hail (Merriam-Webster: Hail).

Related to the Dutch hagel and the German Hagel.

3 First known use: before 12th century

4 First known use: 13th century

Middle English from the obsolete adjective hail, meaning healthy which occurs in greetings and toasts, such as wæs hæil (see wassail, which is from the Old Norse heill and related to hale and whole.

5 First known use: before 12th century

Old English, variant of hāl, meaning whole.

6 First known use: 13th century

Middle English from the Old French haler or aler which is from the Old Norse hala.

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:

Revolt of the Sepoys, India (1909), is courtesy of Internet Archive Book Images and under no restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons.

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