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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English wele, from Old English wela (wellness, welfare, prosperity, riches, well-being, wealth), from Proto-Germanic *walô (well-being, wellness, weal). Cognate with German Wohl, Danish vel, Swedish väl.


weal (uncountable)

  1. (obsolete) Wealth, riches. [10th–19th c.]
  2. (literary) Welfare, prosperity. [from 10th c.]
    • 1631, Francis [Bacon], “New Atlantis. A Worke Vnfinished.”, in Sylua Syluarum: Or A Naturall Historie. In Ten Centuries. [], 3rd edition, London: [] William Rawley; [p]rinted by J[ohn] H[aviland] for William Lee [], page 7, →OCLC:
      Therefore for Gods loue, and as we loue the weale of our Soules and Bodies, let us ſo behaue our ſelues, as we may be at peace with God, and may finde grace in the Eyes of this People.
    • 1667, John Milton, “Book VIII”, in Paradise Lost. [], London: [] [Samuel Simmons], [], →OCLC; republished as Paradise Lost in Ten Books: [], London: Basil Montagu Pickering [], 1873, →OCLC, lines 132–133:
      For whom all this was made, all this will ſoon / Follow, as to him linkt in weal or woe, [...]
  3. (by extension) Boon, benefit.
    • 1885, Richard F. Burton, The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, Night 557:
      And indeed I blamed myself and sore repented me of having taken compassion on him and continued in this condition, suffering fatigue not to be described, till I said to myself, "I wrought him a weal and he requited me with my ill; by Allah, never more will I do any man a service so long as I live!"
  4. Specifically, the general happiness of a community, country etc. (often with qualifying word). [from 15th c.]
Derived terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

See wale.


weal (plural weals)

  1. A raised, longitudinal wound, usually purple, on the surface of flesh caused by a stroke of a rod or whip; a welt.
    Synonym: wheal
    • 1796, J[ohn] G[abriel] Stedman, chapter XII, in Narrative of a Five Years’ Expedition against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam, in Guiana, on the Wild Coast of South America; [], volume I, London: J[oseph] Johnson, [], and J. Edwards, [], →OCLC, page 296:
      [A]lthough a few [slaves] live comfortably at Paramaribo, the greateſt number are wretched, particularly thoſe governed by a lady, who have many weals to ſhow, but not the ſmallest indulgence to boaſt of.
    • 1892, A[rthur] Conan Doyle, “[The Great Shadow] The End of the Storm”, in The Great Shadow and Beyond the City, Bristol: J. W. Arrowsmith, []; London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co., →OCLC, pages 140–141:
      He turned as I struck him and fired full into my face, and the bullet left a weal across my cheek which will mark me to my dying day.
    • 1958, T. H. White, chapter 16, in The Once and Future King, London: Collins, published 1959:
      He had been slashed sixteen times by mighty boars, and his legs had white weals of shiny flesh that stretched right up to his ribs.
    • 2007, Tan Twan Eng, The Gift of Rain[1], New York: Weinstein Books, Book Two, Chapter Twenty-One, p. 422:
      And I saw the green island in the immense sea, the borders of the sea curling with a lining of light, like a vast piece of rice paper, its edges alive with weals of red embers, ready to burst into flame.


weal (third-person singular simple present weals, present participle wealing, simple past and past participle wealed)

  1. To mark with stripes; to wale.