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verb (used with object), bat·ed, bat·ing.
  1. to moderate or restrain: unable to bate our enthusiasm.
  2. to lessen or diminish; abate: setbacks that bated his hopes.
verb (used without object), bat·ed, bat·ing.
  1. to diminish or subside; abate.
  1. with bated breath, with breath drawn in or held because of anticipation or suspense: We watched with bated breath as the runners approached the finish line.

Origin of bate1

1250–1300; Middle English, aphetic variant of abate
Can be confusedbaited bated
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
British Dictionary definitions for with bated breath


  1. another word for abate
  2. with bated breath holding one's breath in suspense or fear


  1. (intr) (of hawks) to jump violently from a perch or the falconer's fist, often hanging from the leash while struggling to escape

Word Origin

C13: from Old French batre to beat, from Latin battuere; related to bat 1


verb (tr)
  1. to soak (skin or hides) in a special solution to soften them and remove chemicals used in previous treatments
  1. the solution used

Word Origin

Old English bǣtan to bait 1


  1. British slang a bad temper or rage

Word Origin

C19: from bait 1, alluding to the mood of a person who is being baited
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for with bated breath



"to reduce, to lessen in intensity," c.1300, shortening of abate (q.v.). Now only in phrase bated breath, which was used by Shakespeare in "The Merchant of Venice" (1596).



c.1300, "to contend with blows or arguments," from Old French batre "to hit, beat, strike," from Late Latin battere, from Latin batuere "to beat, knock" (see batter (v.)). In falconry, "to beat the wings impatiently and flutter away from the perch." Figurative sense of "to flutter downward" attested from 1580s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with with bated breath

with bated breath

Eagerly or anxiously, as in We waited for the announcement of the winner with bated breath. This expression literally means “holding one's breath” (bate means “restrain”). Today it is also used somewhat ironically, indicating one is not all that eager or anxious. [Late 1500s] Also see hold one's breath, def. 2.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.