English Hebrew
1. to cry or wail lustily.
2. to utter or proclaim by outcry; shout out: to bawl one's dissatisfaction; bawling his senseless ditties to the audience.
3. to offer for sale by shouting, as a hawker: a peddler bawling his wares.
4. a loud shout; outcry.
5. a period or spell of loud crying or weeping.


אָבַל = abawl

A verb that means mourn (Assyrian [ablu])

Numerous references occur in the Bible:

Is 24:7; תֶּאֱבַל Ho 4:3 mourn, lament (poet. & higher style);

mourn (mostly prose) especially for dead, cause to mourn; Ez 31:15, caused the deep to mourn.

As a masculine noun אֵ֫בֶל means mourning, Genesis 50:11 and many other inflected forms.

אָבֵל as an adjective, mourning or mourner is found in Genesis 37:35, Esther 6:12, and so on.


has other spellings: ball, baule, baul.

In English literature it is found only from 15th c. One manuscript, Promp. Parv., has "baffyn as houndys, baulo, bajo, latro," and the earliest English instances refer to dogs. But compare Icelandic baula, Swedish bola, to low like a cow, pointing to an Old Norse. vb. *baula from baula, a cow. Another 1440 reference from Promp. Parv.: so baffynge or bawlynge of howndys, baulatus, bafatus.

OED states that the word originally was applied to the voice of animals; hence more or less vituperative as applied to human utterance. i.e. "To bark or howl as a dog, to give mouth or tongue as an animal." Here the reference is to the voice of humans but imitating animals. However this is strictly speculation, based on a minimum Teutonic evidence. See below, which shows evidence of sounds other than from animals and also from other languages.

(Promp. Parv. is the standard abbreviation for Promptorium parvulorum sive clericorum, lexicon Anglo-Latinum Princeps, one of the first important Latin/English lexicons dating from 1440.)

1556 J. HEYWOOD, At my blunte behauour barke ye or ball ye.
1563 BECON New Catech ago Singing-men .. in churches .. may roar, boot, bleat, yell, grunt.
A barking dog that alwayes bawls, but seldome bites. The other three [dogs] ran bawling forth. To shout at the top of one's voice, with a loud, full, protracted sound ; to cry loudly and roughly, to bellow. Often emphasized by out.
1570 LEVINS Mani" /12 Baull, to cry.
1583 STANYHURST 'Ent*  "I belcht owt blasphemye bawling."
1597 SHAKSPEARE, 2 Hen. 1V. it. ii. "Those that bawl out the ruins of thy linen."
Cos NO gr. in. The cryers kept a bauling in the steeples ... for the people to come to Church.
1782 COWPER 104 And ev'ry soul cried out, well done, As loud as he could bawl.


lb^a* (bal) means to mourn, lament. (ASV and RSV translate similarly, but more uniformly "mourn," while RSV occasionally reads "grieve.")

lb#a@ (bel): mourning.

lb@a* (bl): mourning, mourner; cf. Ugaritic.

This word describes mourning rites for the dead, though often, in its thirty-nine occurrences, it is used figuratively, "The land mourneth" (Isa 24:4). Some translate "to dry up," (Jer 12:4; 23:10; Amos 1:2): but "mourning" is contextually preferable (Jer 12:11).

Biblical mourning for the dead involved emotion, usually expressed audibly (Jer 22:18; 48:36) and visibly (Gen 37:34; Ps 35:14; Mic 1:8), especially for the decease of important leaders (2 Chron 35:24-25; Ezek 31:15). Professional mourning women could be hired (Jer 9:17; Eccl 12:5), or the emotion could be merely simulated (2 Sam 14:2, 'abal, Hithpael, "feign oneself a mourner"; Matt 11:17). Yet the OT forbad pagan exhibitions of tearing one's hair or flesh for the dead (Lev 19:28; 21:5; but see Jer 16:6; 41:5). The OT gave an underlying assurance of immortality (Ps 73:24; Job 19:25-27; Prov 15:24) and held out the prospect of bodily resurrection (Ps 16:9-11; Isa 26:19; Dan 12:2).


Latin Dictionary

OED again emphasizes the imitation of animal behavior when it states that the word probably comes from medieval Latin baulare to bark as a dog. However, Latin Dictionaries show:

bālo (bēlo) v. n. from the root bal = bar; Sanskrit barh, barrire; Greek barbaros; 

I. to bleat, to speak of sheep:

II. to talk foolishly.

A word with a different inflection has:

balbus: stammering, stuttering, fumbling.

balbus: kindred with balo.

balba, loqui non quit traulizei, does she (the loved one) stammer, can she not speak distinctly? (then he says) she lisps, Hor. S. 2, 3, 274: balbā de nare loqui, to speak through the nose, Adv. balbē , stammeringly.

balbūtĭo (-uttio ), īre, v. n. and of birds, not to sing clearly. To speak upon something obscurely, not distinctly or not correctly.

baubor , āri, v. dep. [cf. Gr. bauz]; of dogs, to bark gently or moderately (cf. latrare, to bark angrily).

Greek Forms

The Greek used an inflectional system that appended sibilants onto the stem of words, s and z. Thus bal becomes bazo. We see this in the Hebrew name Yeshua, which became Jesus.

baz: to speak, say. The phrase chalepois bazontes epessi means to address with sharp words.  epos . . bebaktai means a word has been spoken, (Cf. baxis, baskein, abaks.)

baz: perf. pass. bebaktai: talk, speak, mostly with reference to one's way of thinking, and consequently of expressing himself; artia, pepnumena, eu bazein, and often in bad sense, anemlia, metamnia, apatlia bazein, pas hs npia bazeis, pratest, Od. 4.32 ; oute pot' ein agori dich ebazomen out eni bouli, expressed divided sentiments, Od. 3.127 ; epos d' eiper ti bebaktai deinon, if a harsh word has been spoken.'


Sanskrit Lexicon

bal: {balati}, to breathe, to live; to be distressed {balate} {bhalate}), to mention, to hurt, to give.

barh: {barhate}, to speak, to hurt, to give or cover, to shine.

Notes on parallel forms:

בָּכָה = bakah (Strong's Concordance #1058) is a more common Hebrew verb for weeping or wailing, (Arabic بَكَى (bakā), Aramaic בְּכָא, ܒܟܳܐ (bko), Assyrian bak, Ethiopic በከየ (bakaya))

בָּלָה = balah (Strong's Concordance #1086) is a verb that means to become old and worn out, (Arabic بَلِىَ (baliya), Aramaic בְּלֵי, ܒܠܴܐ (blo), Ethiopic በልየ (balya)



In all sources cited above we see human expression emanating from the mouth.

Sanskrit shows a speaking that causes hurt or distress.

Greek shows an address with sharp or harsh words.

Latin shows a bleating as an animal, or speaking foolishly. The parallel with the gentle barking of dogs is invoked, or of birds not singing clearly. To speak upon something obscurely, not distinctly or not correctly, a stammering or stuttering.

English is very nearly the same as Hebrew in the meaning of the audible expression. Weeping and wailing are notable.

From this evidence the Indo-European languages show a relationship with the Semitic, but are somewhat different in the concepts they convey. Only English seems to have borrowed directly from the Hebrew.

OED admits that the word BELLOW has an origin that has no clear source. Who knows? Perhaps it is from BAWL.

List of References

BDB: Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, F. Brown, S. R. Driver, and C. A. Briggs, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1951. Now available electronically from Logos Bible Software, as Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, electronic edition, Logos Research Systems, Oak Harbor, WA, 2000.

SEC: Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, J. Strong, Abingdon Press, New York, 1890. Now available on line from multiple sources, such as BIBLESOFT, 22014 7th Ave. South, Seattle, WA 98198.

OED: Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 1971. Now available on line from Online Subscription Department, Oxford University Press, 198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016.

TWOT: Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament by R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, and Bruce K. Waltke, Moody Press, 1980. Now available on line from multiple sources, such as BIBLESOFT, 22014 7th Ave. South, Seattle, WA 98198.

The Word: Isaac Mozeson, SPI Books, New York, 1989

I offer no references for words that come from various other languages, and that can be traced by browsing the World Wide Web.