'Bale' vs 'Bail': What's the Difference?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on July 29, 2023

Do you need to know the difference between 'bale' vs. 'bail?'

Here is the short answer: 

  • 'Bale' is a noun that means evil, woe, or sorrow, or a large bundle of goods, specifically hay. 
  • 'Bale' is also a verb that means to combine goods into a bundle or make something into a bale.
  • 'Bail' refers to a container used to get water out of a boat. 
  • 'Bail' is also a verb that means to clear water out of a boat or watercraft or rescue something. 

However, there are additional meanings for each term. You can learn more about them in this guide with definitions, examples, usage tips, and sample sentences. So, keep reading!

What is the Difference Between 'Bale' vs. 'Bail?'

Whether you are a native English speaker or a professional writer, you need to understand the difference in the meanings of words you frequently use when writing.

In the case of 'bale' vs. 'bail,' the former is a noun and verb that means:

  • Significantly evil, woeful, or sorrowful.
  • It is also a term for a container or measurement of hay that farmers use when buying feed.

The latter is also a noun and a verb. However, it has a different meaning:

  • A container is used to remove water from a boat or other watercraft.
  • When you use the term as a verb, it means to get someone out of trouble, to literally bail someone out of jail, to remove water, or to address matters that are metaphorically causing you to drown or tread water.

In spelling, definition, and usage, these terms differ. But despite their difference in spelling, their pronunciations are the same.

Definition of 'Bale': What Does 'Bale' Mean?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines 'bale' as a noun that means:

  • A large quantity of hay or other goods like fabric bundled together with twine or string

It can also mean:

  • Evil or sorrowful
  • Woeful
  • Significantly evil

It can also be a verb that means:

  • To bundle goods to create a 'bale.'

Synonyms of 'Bale'

  • Package
  • Load
  • Packet
  • Pack
  • Shipment
  • Parcel
  • Freight
  • Haul
  • Payload
  • Lading
  • Burden
  • Ballast
  • Weight
  • Bulk

Definition of 'Bail': What Does 'Bail' Mean?

The same dictionary defines 'bail' as a noun meaning:

  • A bucket or used to remove water from a ship or watercraft

It can also mean:

  • A prisoner's temporary release from prison after they meet their obligation to post bond while they are awaiting trial
  • Collateral given in exchange for someone's release from prison
  • A person who provides or bails someone out of jail

It can also be a verb which means:

  • To remove water from a sinking boat or ship
  • To post a bond for a prisoner and free them from jail or bail them out
  • To help yourself or someone else overcome a challenging situation, especially one that makes you or another person feel like they are metaphorically sinking.

Synonyms of 'Bail'

  • Bond
  • Security
  • Collateral
  • Warranty
  • Surety
  • Guarantee
  • Oath
  • Word
  • Promise
  • Commit
  • Covenant
  • Pitcher
  • Jug
  • Jar
  • Pot
  • Container
  • Bucket
  • Vat
  • Grip
  • Hilt
  • Cauldron
  • Pail
  • Receptacle

How to Use 'Bale' vs. 'Bail'

Now that you understand the differences between 'bale' vs. 'bail,' I will give you some tips to help you know how to use them.

  • Use 'bale' as a noun reference for a bundle of goods secured by string or twine.

So, you could say:

How many hay bales do you want me to order from the feed store?

  • Use 'bale' or great sorrow, woe, or evil.

For example, you might hear someone say:

The bale in the room was apparent by the eerie feeling we got when we walked in. 

  • Use 'bail' as a noun to refer to a container, pail, or bucket used to remove water from a ship or watercraft

For example, I might say:

Will you hand me the bail? The water is getting pretty deep in here. 

  • Use 'bail' as a noun for the money, bond, or collateral given to get a defendant out of jail while awaiting trial.

As an example, you could say:

We will go to the courthouse to post your bond as soon as we get the bail together. 

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Bale' vs. 'Bail'

We need to look at the pronunciation now. Learning the correct pronunciation will help you be more confident when using them.

So, here is a quick pronunciation guide you can reference. 

  • Use the phonetic spelling below to pronounce 'bale' correctly:


  • This is the phonetic spelling you use to pronounce 'bail':


You can see that despite their different spellings, these terms are homophones. So, they sound the same.

Sample Sentences Using 'Bail' vs. 'Bale'

Here are some sample sentences using 'bale' vs. 'bail.' Read each to learn different ways to use these terms and to help you remember how to use them in the future.


  • The bale thrust on them by the deranged man was almost too much to bare.
  • I need help removing the bales of hay from my trailer. Can you help?
  • How long will it take you to bale that wool so we can sell it?
  • The two and three-string hay bales weigh between 40 and 140 lbs, while the larger round bales weigh between 550 and 1,585 lbs.
  • The smaller bales are much easier to handle.


  • Can you do me a favor? Bare with me for a minute while I bail the water out of the boat.
  • He called me last night to tell me he was getting arrested, but I can't bail him out until he sees the magistrate judge.
  • You have been working hard to bail yourself out of this precarious financial situation.
  • Every small boat owner should have a bail onboard in case it starts taking on water.
  • That way, you can bail the water out before it is too late.

Recap: The Difference Between 'Bale' vs. 'Bail'

Finally, let's do a quick recap of the difference between 'bale' vs. 'bail':

  • 'Bale' is a noun for great evil, sorrow, or woe and for a large package of goods bundled and tied with string.
  • 'Bale' is also a verb for bundling goods into bales. 
  • 'Bail' is collateral given in exchange for the temporary release of an inmate. 
  • 'Bail' is a verb for removing water from a ship or getting someone out of jail. 

Hopefully, you will remember the difference between these terms, how to spell them, pronounce them, and define each. However, if you need a reminder in the future, you can always return to this page for a quick review.

You can also find guides on hundreds of other commonly mistaken and misused English words in the confusing words section. So, if you ever need help deciding which word to use, you can return here to verify the grammatically correct term and usage.

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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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