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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. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for baleful
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The boat which has been tethered to the weird, baleful shore is set free, and sails toward the glories of the morning.

  • Of all mortal possessions they are the most useless, mischievous, and baleful.

    Imogen William Godwin
  • If we reject it the vivid colors will grow pale; it will be a baleful meteor, portending tempest and war.

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

    Beowulf Anonymous
  • It is not its power, but its treachery that is dreadful—the guise of friendship hiding a baleful purpose underneath.

    The Tenants of Malory Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
  • Richard paled under the baronet's baleful, half-sneering glance.

    Mistress Wilding Rafael Sabatini
  • It was hard to smile at the bright, baleful face with the menace in the eyes.

    A Voice in the Wilderness Grace Livingston Hill
  • This was, of course, Mary Grey, bound upon her baleful errand.

    Victor's Triumph Mrs. E. D. E. N. Southworth
  • Everyone inherits something from the baleful institution, but not everyone the same.

    The Soul of John Brown Stephen Graham
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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