Also found in: Thesaurus, Idioms.


1. Portending evil; ominous: The guard's baleful glare frightened the children.
2. Harmful or malignant in intent or effect: a baleful influence.

[Middle English, from Old English bealoful : bealu, bale, evil + -ful, -ful; see -ful.]

bale′ful·ly adv.
bale′ful·ness n.
Usage Note: Baleful and baneful overlap in meaning, but baleful usually applies to something that is menacing or foreshadows evil: a baleful look. Baneful most often describes that which is actually harmful or destructive: baneful effects of their foreign policy.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.balefulness - the quality or nature of being harmful or evilbalefulness - the quality or nature of being harmful or evil
evilness, evil - the quality of being morally wrong in principle or practice; "attempts to explain the origin of evil in the world"
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
'There she got into an environment that never gave anything else to anyone but disarray and suffering; where she, after having become a mother at the age of seventeen and having been exposed to immorality and suffered endless insults and torments, formed such ideas about life, which guaranteed that any future elation would invariably turn into balefulness for her.' (42) This environment was, according to Pasternak, inspired by Nietzsche and anarchy: 'The Tbilisi children of the coffee-house period'.
Like the rural peasants and island natives in whom the romantics likewise glimpsed a mode of rescue from the balefulness of modernity and the ravening of the modern mind, women seemed less prone to the abstractions that engender a crippling self-consciousness and self-division.
Similarly, the Medusa is an exemplary reflection of the frightening power of the phantasmagoria not simply because of what her mouth might have said or what the audience thought her eyes communicated, but because her features embody the phantasmagoria's ability to give living desire, condensed in gaze and voice, to nothingness; to an object world "on the side of what the subject sees and hears." (46) Their mythological sexual meaning distilled by the sensational media of Keats's poetry and the phantasmagoria show, Lamia and Medusa act as complementary components of the same monstrous optics, mutual mirrorings of woman's double-bind as the allure and balefulness of desire's mysterious gaze.