View synonyms for bait-and-switch


[ beyt-n-swich ]


  1. denoting a deceptive method of selling, by which customers, attracted to a store by sale items, are told either that the advertised bargain item is out of stock or is inferior to a higher-priced item that is available.


  1. an act or instance of such practice.

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Word History and Origins

Origin of bait-and-switch1

First recorded in 1955–60

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Idioms and Phrases

A deceptive commercial practice in which customers are induced to visit a store by an advertised sale item and then are told that it is out of stock or that it is far inferior to some more expensive item. For example, I won't buy a car from this outfit; they're notorious for their bait and switch tactics . The verb to bait has meant to supply a hook or trap with a morsel of food so as to attract a fish or animal since about 1300; the verb to switch has meant to change, alter, or transfer from one thing to another since the 1890s. The pairing of the two, however, dates only from the 1920s, although the practice is surely much older. It is called switch-selling in Britain.

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Example Sentences

“Sometimes the bait-and-switch is legitimate because apartments go so fast,” he says.

Bait-and-switch was the whole glorious gimmick of high-low editing, and I am happily guilty on every count.

Tom Harkin (D-IA) described the proposal to reporters as “a classic bait-and-switch.”

There may be a backlash for this bait-and-switch among some independent voters, but probably not from most Tea Party activists.

Politically committed directors who want to reach a large public often try what might be termed a bait-and-switch strategy.


Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

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




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