bail

Definitions

General English

Agriculture

  • noun a bar separating horses in a shed
  • noun a milking shed which can be moved from place to place

Commerce

  • noun payment made to a court as guarantee that a prisoner will return after being released. In the United Kingdom, bail is promissory, but in the United States it is paid in advance.

Cricket

  • noun either of the two pieces of turned wood that are laid across the top of a set of stumps to form a wicket. Each bail is 4⅜ inches long and should not project more than half an inch above the stumps. The wicket is ‘down’ if either of the bails is dislodged from the stumps by the ball or by the batsman (with his bat, body, or clothing). If the wind is exceptionally strong, the two captains may agree, with the umpires’ consent, to dispense with the bails altogether.

Information & Library Science

  • noun a hinged bar on a typewriter or printer that holds the paper steady.

Law

  • noun the release of an arrested person from custody after payment has been made to a court on condition that the person will return to face trial

Slang

  • verb to leave (in a hurry). A teenagers’ shortening of ‘bail out’. The word has been fashionable among Valley Girls and others since the late 1970s.

Sports

  • noun either of the two short pieces of wood laid on top of the stumps to make the wicket

Origin & History of “bail”

there are now three distinct words bail in English, although they may all be related. Bail ‘money deposited as a guarantee when released’ (14th c.) comes from Old French bail, a derivative of the verb baillier ‘take charge of, carry’, whose source was Latin bājulāre ‘carry’, from bājulus ‘carrier’. Bail ‘remove water’ (13th c.), also spelled bale, probably comes ultimately from the same source; its immediate antecedent was Old French baille ‘bucket’, which perhaps went back to a hypothetical vulgar Latin *bājula, a feminine form of bājulus. The bail on top of cricket stumps (18th c.) has been connected with Latin bājulus too – this could have been the source of Old French bail ‘cross-beam’ (‘load-carrying beam’), which could quite plausibly have been applied to cricket bails; on the other hand it may go back to Old French bail, baille ‘enclosed court’ (source of English bailey (13th c.)), which originally in English meant the ‘encircling walls of a castle’ but by the 19th century at the latest had developed the sense ‘bar for separating animals in a stable’.
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