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.]
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.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.