Today I come across a video where I heard "But each time God bails Abraham out ...", however, looking at the subtitle, it is "bales Abraham...".

I thought the subtitle maker made a typo, but upon looking it up on Google, the word is actually legitimate:

bail 3

3rd person present: bales

  1. scoop water out of (a ship or boat). "the first priority is to bail out the boat with buckets"
  2. abandon a commitment, obligation, or responsibility. "after 12 years of this, including Sunday Mass with the family, I bailed"

So my questions are:

  • Why is it?
  • Is “bails” a valid word? And the speaker pronounce bales with only one syllable while to me (non-native English speaker), it should be pronounced as ba-les.

EDIT: sorry for the confusion, here is the screenshot of my side:

enter image description here

  • 4
    Hello, DatVM. It's usually best to check in more than one dictionary. CED gives both bail and bale as accepted spelling variants; your reference (which you should link to and attribute) seems to wrongly conflate variants. // M-W gives bail ... bails (and doubtless implies bale ... bales). – Edwin Ashworth Jul 2 '18 at 10:23
  • Where are you quoting from? – Kris Jul 2 '18 at 10:24
  • @EdwinAshworth hi, thank you very much. I used the Google definition, simply use define bales and it shows the text I pasted on the post. Thank you for the reference! – Luke Vo Jul 2 '18 at 10:28
  • @Kris It's from a Bible video about the book of Genesis: youtu.be/F4isSyennFo?t=202 (with the timestamp of the one I am quoting) – Luke Vo Jul 2 '18 at 10:29
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    'The Google definition' doesn't have much meaning nowadays, and is a forbidden term on ELU. I've traced the original (or semi-original) back to ODO, where the mismatch is not present (but then neither is the correct conjugation). – Edwin Ashworth Jul 2 '18 at 11:00

TL;DR: Bales is NOT a conjugation of bail; rather, bale is an alternate spelling of some definitions of bail. This was an error introduced by Google's definition-amalgamator. The correct conjugation can be either I/you/we/they bail, he/she/it bails; or I/you/we/they bale, he/she/it bales, depending on the verb intended and your spelling preference (bundling hay is always bale, paying money to temporarily release someone from jail is always bail, but scooping water out of a boat might be either).

Sadly, this is an example of why Google's "definition" results are not quite the same as actually looking something up in a dictionary. These results are amalgamated from various online dictionaries, often Oxford Living Dictionaries (ODO, with whom Google has some sort of agreement) but sometimes other dictionaries, as well. In the process of re-formatting and combining definitions for the results box, sometimes errors or other misleading information can slip in.

In this case, the text at the top of the result does seem to come from ODO, whose entry for bail says in part:



  1. The temporary release of an accused person awaiting trial, sometimes on condition that a sum of money be lodged to guarantee their appearance in court.
    ‘he has been released on bail’

. . .


(British bale)


  1. [with object] scoop water out of (a ship or boat).
    "‘the first priority is to bail out the boat with buckets’"

    1. 1 Scoop (water) out of a ship or boat.
      ‘I started to use my hands to bail out the water’
  2. North American informal [no object] Abandon a commitment, obligation, or activity.
    ‘after 12 years of this, including Sunday Mass with the family, I bailed’

You'll notice that this definition does not specify verb conjugations; it also doesn't include the "let (someone) down" part of the definition. That piece seems to have come from a print book which can be found in Google Books (New Words, Orin Hargraves, ed., 2004) and was published by Oxford University Press but otherwise has no apparent relation to ODO. Moreover, although ODO's bail definition does list bale as an acceptable (British) alternate spelling for some definitions, it also has an entire separate entry for bale where the noun definition "A bundle of paper" etc. can be found (the noun definitions listed under bail are quite different).

So what seems to have happened is that Google's definition-generator has, somehow, mashed-up a variety of definitions from sundry sources—both different entries from the same source and different sources for the same word—and in the process has incorrectly listed bales as the 3rd person present form of the verb bail. A more accurate understanding would be that bails is the 3rd person present form of bail, and bales/bale is an acceptable alternate (primarily British) spelling scheme for some definitions of the word.

As an aside, note that Google "personalizes" all of its search results, so what one person sees is not necessarily what someone else sees when running the exact same search. However, in this case I was able to replicate your result by searching "define:bales" (without quotation marks) and then clicking to expand the boxed definition. Partial screen capture:

Screen capture of Google search results page, showing "define:bales" (without quotation marks) in the search box. Boxed result reads "bail<sup>3</sup> /bāl/ *verb* 3rd person present: **bales** 1. scoop water out of (a ship or boat). "the first priority is to **bail out** the water" • scoop (water) out of a ship or boat. "I started to use my hands to **bail out** the water" 2. abandon a commitment, obligation, or responsibility. "after 12 years of this, including Sunday Mass with the family, I bailed" • NORTH AMERICAN *informal* let (someone) down by failing to fulfill a commitment, obligation, or responsibility. "he looks a little like the guy who bailed on me"" There is also a boxed option to the right of the definition offering "See results about Gareth Bale (Soccer Player) with a photo and brief biographical information.

But I note that Google returned three entirely different results when searching "define:bale", "define:bails", and "define:bail", none of which showed the same conflation of spellings.

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It's a fluke. The page rendering must have got it all mixed up or the image must have been retouched. Google search merely reproduces from the dictionary as it is.

bail3 (ODO)
verb verb: bail; 3rd person present: bails; past tense: bailed; past participle: bailed; gerund or present participle: bailing; verb: bale; 3rd person present: bales; past tense: baled; past participle: baled; gerund or present participle: baling
1. scoop water out of (a ship or boat).

Notice the verb: bale; starting in the middle of the paragraph.

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  • Google define bales, which is what the OP did, and the resulting screenshot is identical to the one posted by the OP – Mari-Lou A Jul 5 '18 at 6:54
  • @Mari-LouA Why would you say "define bales" if you are interested in bail? OTOH, if you are talking about bale instead, why would you be interested in the definition thrown up by Google for "bail"? – Kris Jul 5 '18 at 7:07
  • One needs also to know how Google works. What happened is that you looked up "the occurrence of bales in dictionaries" and the only place you can find it is under bail as Google has correctly shown. – Kris Jul 5 '18 at 7:09
  • The OP searched the term, not I. Look at the screenshot they posted, it's written clearly. Google produces that page, your statement Google search merely reproduces from the dictionary as it is. NOT if you type "define bales", which is what the OP did. – Mari-Lou A Jul 5 '18 at 7:11
  • See my subsequent comment. – Kris Jul 5 '18 at 7:11

Bails is a valid word, and one of the correct options for the situation you describe (I would probably have used "bailed" in the script but that's a personal semantic choice). As far as I know "bales" should refer only to bundled goods, particularly wool or dry-feed for livestock. sumelic is also quite correct that it is a single syllable.

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bail and bale are homophones.

The term bail out is used as explained below, which I take from Merriam Webster.

That said, in the video the phrase "God bails Abraham out" is a US slang term.

Bail out is a valid AmE slang term for helping someone out and the regular term for getting a person released from custody until their trial. To be released on bail. "He bailed his friend out of jail." "He bailed me out by jump starting my car."

The slang term in the US probably derives from the jail-related term. A second slang meaning is: to leave a situation or place, like the word: to split.

Please note, in contemporary English bale is used for bales of hay or plants with long stalks; and bail is used for the amount of money put up to get someone out of jail temporarily.

The video sub-title has an error because it might not have been checked/transcribed by a human and a machine would not catch the homophone bail/bale. Also, humans make mistakes. The video sub-title should match the meaning of bail out in the video. It is therefore a typo.

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