baleful, baneful
These two somewhat literary words are not much used in everyday language; baleful is slightly better known perhaps than baneful. Since they overlap in meaning, they tend to be confused. Baleful (from bale, ‘misery’) means ‘having an evil influence’ or ‘menacing’, and is used in particular of people's presence or appearance, whereas baneful (from bane, poison) developed from its earlier meaning ‘poisonous’ to ‘causing harm or ruin’. Examples: (baleful)

• The baleful presence of his father in the house was like a constant reproach —R. Hayman, 1981

• Foghorns boom in still longer and lower choruses of baleful warning —Iain Banks, 1986

• (baneful) The baneful memory of that night haunted her, sometimes tormented her —Iris Murdoch, 1987.

Baleful is the more likely to be needed in spoken English, especially with reference to looks and glances.

Modern English usage. 2014.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Baleful — Bale ful (b[=a]l f[.u]l), a. [AS. bealoful. See {Bale} misery.] 1. Full of deadly or pernicious influence; destructive. Baleful enemies. Shak. [1913 Webster] Four infernal rivers that disgorge Into the burning lake their baleful streams. Milton.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • baleful — O.E. bealu full dire, wicked, cruel, from bealu harm, injury, ruin, evil, mischief, wickedness, a noxious thing, from P.Gmc. *balwom (Cf. O.S. balu, O.Fris. balu evil, O.H.G. balo destruction, O.N. bol, Gothic balwjan to torment ), from PIE root… …   Etymology dictionary

  • baleful — I adjective bad, baneful, calamitous, damaging, dangerous, deadly, deleterious, despiteful, destructive, detrimental, dire, disadvantageous, evil, harmful, heinous, hurtful, ill omened, inauspicious, insalubrious, lethal, malefic, malevolent,… …   Law dictionary

  • baleful — maleficent, malefic, malign, *sinister Analogous words: threatening, menacing (see THREATEN): *ominous, portentous, fateful: hellish, *infernal: diabolical, *fiendish, devilish Antonyms: beneficent Contrasted words: * …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • baleful — [adj] menacing calamitous, deadly, dire, evil, foreboding, harmful, hurtful, injurious, malevolent, malignant, noxious, ominous, pernicious, ruinous, sinister, threatening, venomous, vindictive, woeful; concepts 537,570 Ant. advantageous,… …   New thesaurus

  • baleful — ► ADJECTIVE 1) menacing. 2) having a harmful effect. DERIVATIVES balefully adverb. ORIGIN from an Old English word meaning evil …   English terms dictionary

  • baleful — [bāl′fəl] adj. [ME < OE bealoful < bealu,BALE2 + ful, full] 1. harmful or threatening harm or evil; ominous; deadly 2. Archaic sorrowful; wretched SYN. SINISTER balefully adv. balefulness n …   English World dictionary

  • baleful — adjective Date: before 12th century 1. deadly or pernicious in influence < baleful effects > 2. foreboding or threatening evil < a baleful look > Synonyms: see sinister • balefully adverb • ba …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • baleful — [[t]be͟ɪlfʊl[/t]] ADJ GRADED: usu ADJ n Baleful means harmful, or expressing harmful intentions. [LITERARY] He had a baleful look. Derived words: balefully ADV ADV with v He watched balefully as Cassandra walked towards him …   English dictionary

  • baleful — adjective /beɪlfəl/ a) Portending evil; ominous. round he throws his baleful eyes, that witnessed huge affliction and dismay. b) Miserable, wretched, distressed, suffering …   Wiktionary

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