from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Security, usually a sum of money, exchanged for the release of an arrested person as a guarantee of that person's appearance for trial.
  • n. Release from imprisonment provided by the payment of such money.
  • n. A person who provides this security.
  • transitive v. To secure the release of by providing security.
  • transitive v. To release (a person) for whom security has been paid.
  • transitive v. Informal To extricate from a difficult situation: always bailing you out of trouble.
  • transitive v. To transfer (property) to another for a special purpose but without permanent transference of ownership.
  • idiom jump To fail to appear in court and so forfeit one's bail.
  • transitive v. To remove (water) from a boat by repeatedly filling a container and emptying it over the side.
  • transitive v. To empty (a boat) of water by bailing.
  • intransitive v. To empty a boat of water by bailing.
  • n. A container used for emptying water from a boat.
  • bail out To parachute from an aircraft; eject.
  • bail out To abandon a project or enterprise.
  • n. The arched hooplike handle of a container, such as a pail.
  • n. An arch or hoop, such as one of those used to support the top of a covered wagon.
  • n. A hinged bar on a typewriter that holds the paper against the platen.
  • n. The pivoting U-shaped part of a fishing reel that guides the line onto the spool during rewinding.
  • n. Chiefly British A pole or bar used to confine or separate animals.
  • n. Sports One of the two crossbars that form the top of a wicket used in the game of cricket.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Security, usually a sum of money, exchanged for the release of an arrested person as a guarantee of that person's appearance for trial.
  • n. Release from imprisonment on payment of such money.
  • n. The person providing such payment.
  • n. A bucket or scoop used for removing water from a boat etc.
  • v. To secure the release of an arrested person by providing bail.
  • v. To release a person under such guarantee.
  • v. To set free.
  • v. To hand over personal property to be held temporarily by another as a bailment.
  • v. To remove water from a boat by scooping it out.
  • n. A hoop, ring or handle (especially of a kettle or bucket).
  • n. A stall for a cow (or other animal) (usually tethered with a semi-circular hoop).
  • n. A hinged bar as a restraint for animals, or on a typewriter.
  • n. A frame to restrain a cow during milking.
  • n. A hoop, ring, or other object used to connect a pendant to a necklace.
  • n. One of the two wooden crosspieces that rest on top of the stumps to form a wicket.
  • n. Normally curved handle suspended between sockets as a drawer pull. This may also be on a kettle or pail, as the wire bail handle shown in the drawing.
  • v. To secure the head of a cow during milking.
  • v. To exit quickly.
  • v. To fail to meet a commitment.
  • v. To confine.
  • v. To secure (a cow) by placing its head in a bail for milking.
  • v. To keep (a traveller) detained in order to rob them; to corner (a wild animal); loosely, to detain, hold up. (Usually with up.)

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A bucket or scoop used in bailing water out of a boat.
  • n. Custody; keeping.
  • n.
  • n. The person or persons who procure the release of a prisoner from the custody of the officer, or from imprisonment, by becoming surety for his appearance in court.
  • n. The security given for the appearance of a prisoner in order to obtain his release from custody of the officer.
  • n. The arched handle of a kettle, pail, or similar vessel, usually movable.
  • n. A half hoop for supporting the cover of a carrier's wagon, awning of a boat, etc.
  • n. A line of palisades serving as an exterior defense.
  • n. The outer wall of a feudal castle. Hence: The space inclosed by it; the outer court.
  • n. A certain limit within a forest.
  • n. A division for the stalls of an open stable.
  • n. The top or cross piece (or either of the two cross pieces) of the wicket.
  • transitive v. To lade; to dip and throw; -- usually with out.
  • transitive v. To dip or lade water from; -- often with out to express completeness.
  • transitive v. To deliver; to release.
  • transitive v.
  • transitive v. To set free, or deliver from arrest, or out of custody, on the undertaking of some other person or persons that he or they will be responsible for the appearance, at a certain day and place, of the person bailed.
  • transitive v. To deliver, as goods in trust, for some special object or purpose, upon a contract, expressed or implied, that the trust shall be faithfully executed on the part of the bailee, or person intrusted.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To provide with a bail; hoop.
  • In law: To deliver, as goods, without transference of ownership, on an agreement, expressed or implied, that they shall be returned or accounted for. See bailment.
  • To set free, deliver, or liberate from arrest and imprisonment, upon security given that the person bailed shall appear and answer in court or satisfy the judgment given: applied to the action of the magistrate or the surety.
  • Figuratively, to release; liberate.
  • To be security for; secure; protect.
  • To bar in; confine.
  • To provide with a bail.
  • To remove (water), or free (a boat, etc.) from water, with a bail, bucket, basin, or other small vessel: usually with out.
  • To remove water, as from a boat or the like, with a bail or bucket.
  • etc. Obsolete and less proper spelling of bale, etc.
  • To halt or surrender when “bailed up” or “held up” by a highway-man.
  • n. A hoop or ring; a piece of wood, metal, or other material bent into the form of a circle or half-circle, as a hoop for supporting the tilt of a boat, the cover of a wagon or cradle, etc. Specifically The hoop forming the handle of a kettle or bucket.
  • n. One of the iron yokes which serve to suspend a lifecar from the hawser on which it runs.
  • n. A stout iron yoke placed over heavy guns and fitting closely over the ends of the trunnions, to which it is attached by pins in the axis of the trunnions: used to raise the gun by means of the gin.
  • n. An arched support of a millstone.
  • n. A wooden canopy formed of bows.
  • n. Power; custody; jurisdiction.
  • n. The keeping of a person in nominal custody on security that he shall appear in court at a specified time.
  • n. Security given to obtain the release of a prisoner from custody, pending final decision in the action against him.
  • n. Figuratively, security; guaranty.
  • n. Liberation on bail: as, to grant bail.
  • n. The person or persons who provide bail, and thus obtain the temporary release of a prisoner.
  • n. [Bail, being an abstract noun applicable to persons only by ellipsis, is not used in the plural.]
  • n. To vouch (for a thing): as, I'll go bail for that.
  • n. A bar; a cross-bar.
  • n. In cricket, one of the two little bars or sticks, about 4 inches long, which are laid on the tops of the stumps, one end resting in the groove of one stump, and the other in that of the next.
  • n. A bar or pole to separate horses in a stable.
  • n. A framework for securing the head of a cow while she is being milked.
  • n. [The earliest use in E.] Milit.: plural The outer wall or line of defenses, originally often made of stakes; barriers; palisades. See palisade. Hence— The space inclosed by the outer wall; the outer court of a castle or a fortified post: in this sense usually called bailey. See bailey.
  • n. A certain limit in a forest.
  • n. A bucket; a pail; especially, a bucket or other small vessel used to dip water out of a boat.
  • n. In Canadian law, a demise of realty.
  • n. In practice, the formal entering of fictitious bail when special bail is not required. It is intended merely to express the appearance of a defendant.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. remove (water) from a vessel with a container
  • n. the legal system that allows an accused person to be temporarily released from custody (usually on condition that a sum of money guarantees their appearance at trial)
  • v. secure the release of (someone) by providing security
  • v. release after a security has been paid
  • v. deliver something in trust to somebody for a special purpose and for a limited period
  • v. empty (a vessel) by bailing
  • n. (criminal law) money that must be forfeited by the bondsman if an accused person fails to appear in court for trial


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Middle English, custody, from Old French, from baillier, to take charge of, from Latin bāiulāre, to carry a load, from bāiulus, carrier of a burden.
From Middle English baille, bucket, from Old French, from Vulgar Latin *bāiula, water container, from Latin bāiulāre, to carry a load.
Middle English beil, perhaps from Old English *bēgel or of Scandinavian origin.
Old French dialectal, probably from Latin baculum, stick; see bacillus.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From the Old French verb bailler ("to deliver or hand over") and noun bail ("lease"), from Latin bāiulāre, present active infinitive of bāiulō ("carry or bear").

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

by shortening from bail out, which comes from etymology 1

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English beyl, from Old Norse beygla ("a bend, ring or hoop")

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From French baillier.



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  • fianza

    September 17, 2013

  • It's funny that there's a bail on the bucket you might use to bail out a boat. (Funny in that way that will make me try to make some ridiculous joke about "bucket-ing" out a boat sometime.)

    April 3, 2012

  • “In a group, you follow a guide with two electric lanterns, suspended from bails like railroad lanterns.”

    Season on the Chalk by John McPhee, in Silk Parachute, p 27

    I wasn't familiar with the handle-of-a-kettle-or-a-pail-or-a-lantern sense of this word until now.

    June 20, 2010

  • Cricket jargon - a small piece of wood that forms part of the wicket, with two bails resting atop the stumps.

    November 29, 2007

  • Bail? Bail!


    July 21, 2007

  • Used in South Park as a shortened form of "Let's get the hell out of here", or "Let's give up, this crap is stupid". Typically used as both a question and the affirmative response.

    July 21, 2007

  • Handle of a kettle or pail. You could make a blackberry bucket by attacting a wire bail to a three pound coffee can. But these days you probably wouldn't.

    July 21, 2007

  • Contranymic in the sense: bail out (remove yourself from something, say, an airplane) vs. remove something (water) from yourself (in the boat).

    February 23, 2007