bale·​ful | \ ˈbāl-fəl How to pronounce baleful (audio) \

Definition of baleful

1 : deadly or pernicious in influence baleful effects
2 : foreboding or threatening evil gave him a baleful look

Other Words from baleful

balefully \ ˈbāl-​fə-​lē How to pronounce baleful (audio) \ adverb
balefulness \ ˈbāl-​fəl-​nəs How to pronounce baleful (audio) \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for baleful

sinister, baleful, malign mean seriously threatening evil or disaster. sinister suggests a general or vague feeling of fear or apprehension on the part of the observer. a sinister aura haunts the place baleful imputes perniciousness or destructiveness to something whether working openly or covertly. exerting a corrupt and baleful influence malign applies to what is inherently evil or harmful. the malign effects of racism

Did you know?

The bale of baleful comes from Old English bealu ("evil"), and the bane of the similar-looking baneful comes from Old English bana ("slayer" or "murderer"). Baleful and baneful are alike in meaning as well as appearance, and they are sometimes used in quite similar contexts—but they usually differ in emphasis. Baleful typically describes what threatens or portends evil (e.g., "a baleful look," "baleful predictions"). Baneful applies typically to what causes evil or destruction (e.g., "a baneful secret," "the baneful bite of the serpent"). Both words are used to modify terms like influence, effect, and result, and in such uses there is little that distinguishes them.

Examples of baleful in a Sentence

the baleful effects of water pollution a dark, baleful sky portending a tornado
Recent Examples on the Web As the vengeful Queen Margaret, who rains curses and florid predictions of doom upon her enemies, Sharon Washington has a baleful majesty. Charles Isherwood, WSJ, 11 July 2022 But looking back over five decades, Mr. Barone thinks Watergate was a historical watershed and had a baleful influence on politics and journalism that still bedevils us today. Tunku Varadarajan, WSJ, 10 June 2022 Most people know Muna for their hook-laden, vibe-inducing electro-pop singles — so when the trio dropped a baleful country song earlier this week, fans were certainly shocked. Stephen Daw, Billboard, 29 Apr. 2022 With his invasion of Ukraine floundering and his economy teetering, Putin doubled down Wednesday — turning his baleful glare on Russians who are against the invasion or who sympathize with the West. NBC News, 17 Mar. 2022 Saint Russia would stand against this baleful homogenization. New York Times, 26 Mar. 2022 This baleful development has led to a flourishing cybersecurity industry. Larry Light, Fortune, 11 Mar. 2022 Durham’s probe is a righteous effort to get to the bottom of a matter that deranged American politics for two solid years, though it has been derided or ignored by the corporate press, with baleful consequences. Rich Lowry, National Review, 15 Feb. 2022 The minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, even wrote to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei complaining of the show’s baleful influence. Omid Khazani And Henry Chu, Los Angeles Times, 18 Nov. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'baleful.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of baleful

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for baleful

Middle English balefull "(of humans or animals) bent upon mischief or destruction, malevolent, (of things) pernicious," also "wretched, miserable," going back to Old English bealluful "full of evil, sinful," from bealu bale entry 1 + -ful -ful entry 1

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The first known use of baleful was before the 12th century

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Last Updated

22 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Baleful.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Aug. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on baleful

Nglish: Translation of baleful for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of baleful for Arabic Speakers


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