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Bale vs. Bail

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  Angbeen Chaudhary  —  Grammar Tips
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English, like all languages, contain homophones, or words that sound alike, but don’t have the same meaning. Two such words, bail and bale, can be potentially disastrous if misused. For example, if you ask someone to bale you out of a situation and he or she takes you literally, you may find yourself in the back of a truck, packed into a tight bundle, and tied securely with twine. In order to avoid embarrassing predicaments like the one above, continue reading for an explanation of the differences between homophones bail and bale.


Bale originated from Middle English: probably from Middle Dutch, from Old French; ultimately of Germanic origin and related to ball1.

Bale as noun:

Bale is used as a noun in English language where it means a large wrapped or bound bundle of paper, hay, or cotton.

The fire destroyed 500 bales of hay.

Bale as verb:

Bale is also used as a verb in English language where it means to make up into bales.

The straw is left on the field to be baled later.

Bail as noun:

Bail is the temporary release of an accused person awaiting trial, sometimes on condition that a sum of money is lodged to guarantee their appearance in court.

He has been released on bail.

Bail as verb:

Bale vs. Bail

Bail is used as a verb which means to release or secure the release of (a prisoner) on payment of bail.

Nine were bailed on drugs charges.


However, on Thursday, the USDA reported that China bought 265,600 bales of upland cotton from the U.S. in the week ended Sept. 6. [Wall Street Journal]

He objects to a system in which the US Federal Reserve allows asset bubbles to inflate and in which the US government bails out failing banks and businesses. [BBC]

Baled hay should be stored in secure locations and out of sight, if possible. [Denver Post]

A rise in absenteeism and disinterest in work are two major indicators a staff member may be thinking of bailing. [The Age]

One night, as Dasianna was lying on the beach lamenting over his misfortunes, he saw a bale of turtles crawling through the sands of Maravanthe Beach. [DNA India]

It has evolved into a center with 1,200 beds that mostly houses people waiting to make bail or face trial. [New York Times]

Bail or bale:

The homophones bail and bale are sometimes used as nouns, and sometimes used as verbs. Bail is a way to remove water from an area, and also the temporary release of a prisoner. Bale refers to both the process of packaging material into tight bundles, as well as the end product of this action. Since in its verb form, bail refers to removing water with a bucket, or pail, you can use the similar spellings of bail and pail to remember where to use this word.

Next time you are stuck in a challenging situation involving English, remember to bail yourself out of trouble by checking this site.

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