bail vs. bale

What is the difference between bail and bale?

The word bail has a variety of meanings. As a noun, it most often means “a security, usually money, paid to be released from imprisonment.” As a verb, it can mean “to pay a security to release someone from prison,” “to empty water from a boat,” “to eject from an aircraft,” or “to abandon something, such as a project or other enterprise.” Informally, it can also mean “to help with or extricate from a difficult task or situation.” For example:
  • “You’re just lucky we had enough money for your bail.”
  • “She posted bail last night.”
  • “I have to bail your brother out of jail.”
  • “The sailors began bailing out the dinghy.”
  • “We had to bail on the project after we found out our funding had been cut.”
  • “You can’t always rely on me to bail you out of trouble.”
The homophone bale has a much narrower definition. It can be a noun meaning “a large bundle, especially of raw materials, bound by ropes, cords, or wires,” or a verb meaning “to wrap in or create a bale.” For example:
  • “I worked for a month baling hay at my friend’s farm.”
  • “The warehouse was filled with giant bales of paper.”

Spelling Tricks and Tips

Just remember that if you are going to bail out a boat, you would want to use something like a pail to scoop up water.
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