Bail vs. Bale: What’s the Difference?

English, like all languages, contain homophones, or words that sound alike, but don’t have the same meaning. Two such words, bail and bale, can be potentially disastrous if misused.

For example, if you ask someone to bale you out of a situation and he or she takes you literally, you may find yourself in the back of a truck, packed into a tight bundle, and tied securely with twine.

In order to avoid embarrassing predicaments like the one above, continue reading for an explanation of the differences between homophones bail and bale.

What is the Difference Between Bail and Bale?

In this article, I will compare bail vs. bale. I will use each word in an example sentence, so you can see them in the proper context.

I will also explain a mnemonic device that you can use to help you remember when to choose bail or bale in your own writing.

When to Use Bail

bail versus bale What does bail mean? Bail can be a verb or a noun.

As a verb, bail means to remove water by using a bucket. It can also be used less literally, as in the phrase bail [someone or something] out, meaning to give aid in a difficult situation.

For example,

  • Jon, help me bail out the canoe, before we sink.
  • “I don’t know the answer to this question, can someone from H.R. bail me out?” Sheila said on the conference call.
  • Creditors have pumped in billions of dollars to bail out STX Offshore, which logged a 314 billion won ($265.6 million) operating loss last year, following a 1.5 trillion won loss in 2014. The company owes financial institutions nearly six trillion won. –The Wall Street Journal

As a noun, bail means the temporary release of a prisoner.

For example,

  • The judge set the bail impossibly high.
  • Much to the chagrin of the populace, the accused criminal was released on bail.

When to Use Bale

Definition of bale definition and definition of bail definition What does bale mean? Bale can also be used as a verb or a noun.

As a verb, bale means to pack something into tight bundles.

For example,

  • Today, specialized machines bale things like hay, cotton, and paper.
  • The hay baler baled 99 bales of hay, then blew a gasket.

As a noun, bale refers to the tight packages of material that are the end product of the above process.

For example,

  • Pa ordered 100 bales of hay, and ordered me to toss them into the loft.
  • A bale of cotton fell from the truck and onto the highway.
  • On Bovina Farm Day, where the photo of the children on the hay bales was taken, everyone came out and mingled. –The New York Times

Trick to Remember the Difference

Define bale and define bail Here is helpful trick to remember bale vs. bail.

Both words are homophones, and each can be used as a noun or a verb. Since in its verb form, bail refers to removing water with a bucket, or pail, you can use the similar spellings of bail and pail to remember where to use this word.

You use a pail to bail out your boat.


Is it bail or bale? The homophones bail and bale are sometimes used as nouns, and sometimes used as verbs.

  • Bail is a way to remove water from an area, and also the temporary release of a prisoner.
  • Bale refers to both the process of packaging material into tight bundles, as well as the end product of this action.

Since bail and pail are spelled nearly the same, you can remember that a pail is often the best way to bail out something that is in danger of sinking.

Next time you are stuck in a challenging situation involving English, remember to bail yourself out of trouble by checking this site.