Make Your Editor Cry: Ball vs. Bawl

Make Your Editor Cry:  Ball vs. Bawl

Ball and Bawl are unusual in that they both originate from the Old Norse. Ball comes from the Old Norse bolr, meaning ball. Bawl came into use in the middle of the fifteenth century from the Old Norse baula, meaning to low like a cow and the Medieval Latin baulare, to bark like a dog.

To “bawl” is to cry out loudly, so when you break down in tears you bawl like a baby and when you reprimand people severely you bawl them out. Don’t use “ball” in these sorts of expressions. It has a number of meanings, but none of them have to do with shouting and wailing unless, of course, you’re shouting “play ball!”


The word “ball” is a noun with several meanings, the two most common are covered here. It can refer to a formal social gathering where guests can dance. It can also describe a spherical shape or an oblong shape. A ball can either be solid or hollow. It most typically refers to an object in a game or a sporting event. The first mention of a ball as an item in a game is in 1200.

A ball is an object that is thrown, kicked or hit in a game such as soccer, football, baseball or rugby. The ball in a volleyball game is round while the ball in a football game is oblong. In North America, any game that employs the use of a ball may be referred to as ball, but especially, baseball. Any substance that is shaped in a round sphere, either hollow or solid, may be referred to as a ball. Ball may be used as a verb to describe the act of forming something into a round shape, like balling up a parking ticket.


If you think it's hard to meet new people, try picking up the wrong golf ball.
My pitching philosophy is simple-keep the ball way from the bat.
The women are getting dressed up in their best gowns and going to a royal ball.


The word “bawl” can be used as either a noun or a verb. When used as a noun, “bawl” is a loud, unrestrained shout. As a verb, it means to cry or scream noisily and unrestrainedly.

Bawl is a verb that means to shout, to emit loud cries without restraint. Bawl also means to cry noisily, the adjective form is bawling. in US English, the first use of bawl, originally meaning to howl like a dog, then to mean “reprimand loudly” appeared in 1908.


He showed his lung power with a loud bawl.
I'm going through a stage where the dumbest things make me bawl.
If you want to cry, bawl. If you need help, raise your hand and jump up and down.

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