General English

  • adjective having no hair where there used to be hair, especially on the head


  • adjective terrible. A vogue term among American teenagers in 1987 and 1988. The origins of this kind of appropriation from standard English are unrecorded, but often begin in gang code or street jargon.

Origin & History of “bald”

In middle English times, bald was ballede, which suggests that it may have been a compound formed in Old English with the suffix -ede ‘characterized by, having’. It has been conjectured that the first element in the compound was Old English *ball-, meaning ‘white patch’ or ‘blaze’ on an animal’s head; this may be supported by isolated examples of the use of the adjective to mean (of a horse) ‘white-faced’ from the 16th to the 18th centuries, and by the obsolete dialectal ball meaning both ‘white patch on the head’ and ‘white-faced horse’. This would have produced the Old English adjective *bællede or *beallede, which, from ‘having a white blaze’, progressed naturally in meaning to ‘hairless’.

The compounds piebald (16th c.) and skewbald (17th c.) are both based on bald: piebald means ‘having black and white patches like a magpie’, while skewbald may be based on Middle English skew ‘(cloudy) skies’ or on Old French escu ‘shield’.