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From Middle English baleful, balful, baluful, from Old English bealuful, which being equivalent to bealu + -ful. Surface analysis as bale ("evil, woe") + -ful. See bale for further etymology.
baleful (comparative more baleful, superlative most baleful)
- Portending evil; ominous.
- 1873, James Thomson (B.V.), The City of Dreadful Night
- The street-lamps burn amid the baleful glooms,
- Amidst the soundless solitudes immense
- Of ranged mansions dark and still as tombs.
1936, Rollo Ahmed, The Black Art, London: Long, page 186:
According to them all sorcerers, necromancers and evil-doers were born under the baleful influence of the seventh calendic sign[.]
- 1938, Xavier Herbert, Capricornia, New York: D. Appleton-Century, 1943, Chapter XII, p. 194, 
- [...] he went off alone with his family, and, watched by the day's red baleful eye, pumped the pump-car homeward, [...]
- 1949, Naomi Replansky, "Complaint of the Ignorant Wizard" in Ring Song (published 1952):
- I learned the speech of birds; now every tree
Screams out to me a baleful prophecy.
2020 November 13, Duncan Campbell, "Peter Sutcliffe obituary", in The Guardian: Few people cast a more baleful shadow over postwar Britain than Peter Sutcliffe, the "Yorkshire Ripper", who has died aged 74
- Miserable, wretched, distressed, suffering.
From Old English bealuful; equivalent to bale + -ful.
- (key): /'ba:lful/, /'balful/
- evil, horrible, malicious
- (rare) dangerous, harmful, injurious
- (rare) worthless, petty, lowly