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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
  • Authenticity now dominates our way of viewing ourselves and our relationships, with baleful consequences.
  • The polls corroborate the baleful economic portents.
  • But this time the scare is about more than bad mortgage loans and their baleful effect on the credit markets.
  • There would be rides on the beach on baleful donkeys, and tooth-jarring, solid-sugar candy called rock.
  • Worse, it is a picturesque relic with baleful consequences.
  • Ask economists, sociologists or businessmen what the government should reform and you are often met with a baleful shrug.
  • The expression in his eyes was baleful, aloof, and slightly suspicious.
  • The word is so loaded with baleful connotations that it tends to empurple any surrounding prose.
  • There were no baleful stares at his box, only fist pumps after winning a well-played point.
  • He had seen the white settlers pour into the valley, and the baleful impact they made on the natives' culture.
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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