Bated vs. Baited

background image 89

The expression with bated breath is recorded as appearing for the first time in William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice towards the end of the 16th century. It refers to having subdued or restrained breathing because of some strong emotion.

The verb to bate, which means reduce the intensity of; take away; or lower in estimation or amount (an archaic usage), has long since disappeared from common use.

So it’s no surprise that it’s often misspelled as baited. According to Merriam Webster, bait means to persecute, harass or lure.

Here’s an example to illustrate the two meanings: She waited with bated breath to see if he would take the bait.

Here are some quotations illustrating their usage:

… the end of the year approaches, practically everyone in the fashion, beauty and interior design industries waits with bated breath to see what Pantone will proclaim as the official color for the upcoming year. (www.chicagotribune.com)

… the world — or at least, the American public — waited with bated breath on Thursday for the National Archives to release its final batch of records related to the assassination of … (www.usatoday.com)

… Channel and blue catfish are good on hot dogs, shrimp, Spam, and frozen shad. Yellow catfish are good on juglines baited with live perch. (www.chicagotribune.com)

Stop making those embarrassing mistakes! Subscribe to Daily Writing Tips today!

You will improve your English in only 5 minutes per day, guaranteed!

Each newsletter contains a writing tip, word of the day, and exercise!

You'll also get three bonus ebooks completely free!

6 thoughts on “Bated vs. Baited”

  1. Actually, “bate” is just a short form of “abate” (not an archaic usage), which any good dictionary would tell you.

  2. Glad to be of help, Heidi.

    David, according to the Oxford Dictionary of Etymology, ‘bate’ is a shortened form of ‘abate’. ‘Bate’ was used as a verb in its own right from the 14th century. ‘Archaic usage’ referred only to the meaning ‘to lower in estimation or amount’ – hope that clears up any confusion.

  3. You’re welcome, Chris. 🙂

    I remember watching Mork and Mindy, Chris, but I don’t remember that expression!

Leave a Comment