Bald Is Beautiful ...


Editor's Comment:
While all of the text in the definition below is indeed from the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), it has been edited down substantially for the purposes of this site. If you have any questions about the original content, please consult your local library, which should have a copy of the full OED. The enlightening quotations with which the OED illustrates its definitions have been integrated into the Bald Quotes section (at least those which I deemed curious or interesting), and what remains should be pretty strictly just the definitions itself.


I Literal senses.

  1. Rotund, of full habit, corpulent. Obs.
  2. Having no hair on some part of the head where it would naturally grow; hairless. fig. esp. in reference to the necessity of `seizing time by the forelock.'
  3. Without hair (feathers, etc.) on other parts of the body than the head.
  4. transf. Without the usual or natural covering (in various senses):
  5. Streaked or marked with white. Cf. Welsh ceffyl bàl a horse with a white streak or mark on the face (F. cheval belle-face), where bàl may be an adj., or a sb. construed as a genitive.

II Figurative. (Cf. slight a. and G. blasz.)

  1. Bare or destitute of meaning or force; lacking in pregnant import or vividness of description; meagre, trivial, paltry.
  2. Bare or destitute of ornament and grace; unadorned, meagrely simple:
  3. Undisguised, palpable, evident.

III Comb., chiefly parasynthetic deriv., as bald-crowned (sense 2), -nosed (sense 5). See also bald-coot, -faced, eagle, -head, -pate, -rib, and bald buzzard, kite, locust, etc.

ME. balled, of uncertain origin; in sense 1, apparently a ppl. form from ball v. or sb., with the sense of `protuberant or rounded like a ball,' whence possibly `smooth,' and, as applied to the head, `hairless.' But the analogy of many words for `bald' in various langs., in which the sense arises out of that of `shining, white,' or esp. that of `having a white patch on the forehead,' as in `bald-faced stag,' `bald-coot,' with the actual appearance of this sense in ball sb.[2], strongly favours the idea that ME. ball-ed was a derivative of the latter (cf. also ballard), which is with evident propriety referred to Welsh bàl, as explained under sense 5. The chief difficulty is the rarity of the simple ball, and lack of early instances to prove its Eng. use before the appearance of ball-ed. For the termination, Sievers compares OE. -ede (OS. -odi) used esp. of bodily defects, as in heal-ede ruptured, hofer-ede hunchbacked, etc. [ Cf. the analogy of MDutch blaer `bald' and blare, Dutch blaar `white patch on the forehead' of a horse, etc.; also of MHG. blas `bald,' earlier `shining,' and blasse `white patch on the forehead'; also of Dutch bles `bald' and blesse; and see blas in Grimm; also Wedgwood and Skeat. Cf. also Gr. falakroj `bald,' lit. `white- or shining-pated.' There seems little ground for the suggestion of Kluge that balled represents a lost OE. *bællod = *bærlod, Goth. *bazlops, from OTeut. baz-oz bare.]

Copyright Oxford University Press

Date last modified: August 29, 1995.
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