verb (used with object)

verb (used without object) Archaic.

to stop for food or refreshment during a journey.
(of a horse or other animal) to take food; feed.

Origin of bait

1150–1200; Middle English bait, beit (noun), baiten (v.) < Old Norse, probably reflecting both beita to pasture, hunt, chase with dogs or hawks (ultimately causative of bíta to bite; cf. bate3) and beita fish bait
Related formsbait·er, nouno·ver·bait, verb (used with object)re·bait, verb (used with object)un·bait, verb (used with object)
Can be confusedbait batebaited bated

Synonyms for bait Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for bait

Contemporary Examples of bait

Historical Examples of bait

British Dictionary definitions for bait




something edible, such as soft bread paste, worms, or pieces of meat, fixed to a hook or in a trap to attract fish or animals
an enticement; temptation
a variant spelling of bate 4
Northern English dialect food, esp a packed lunch
archaic a short stop for refreshment during a journey


(tr) to put a piece of food on or in (a hook or trap)
(tr) to persecute or tease
(tr) to entice; tempt
(tr) to set dogs upon (a bear, etc)
(tr) archaic to feed (a horse), esp during a break in a journey
(intr) archaic to stop for rest and refreshment during a journey

Word Origin for bait

C13: from Old Norse beita to hunt, persecute; related to Old English bǣtan to restrain, hunt, Old High German beizen


The phrase with bated breath is sometimes wrongly spelled with baited breath




a variant spelling of bate 2
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 bait

"food put on a hook or trap to lure prey," c.1300, from Old Norse beita "food," related to Old Norse beit "pasture," Old English bat "food," literally "to cause to bite" (see bait (v.)). Figurative sense "anything used as a lure" is from c.1400.


"to torment or goad (someone unable to escape, and to take pleasure in it)," c.1300, beyten, a figurative use from the literal sense of "to set dogs on," from the medieval entertainment of setting dogs on some ferocious animal to bite and worry it (the literal use is attested from c.1300); from Old Norse beita "to cause to bite," from Proto-Germanic *baitan (cf. Old English bætan "to cause to bite," Old High German beizzen "to bait," Middle High German beiz "hunting," German beizen "to hawk, to cauterize, etch"), causative of *bitan (see bite (v.)); the causative word forked into the two meanings of "harass" and "food offered." Related: Baited; baiting.


"to put food on a hook or in a trap," c.1300, probably from bait (n.). Related: Baited; baiting.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with bait


In addition to the idiom beginning with bait

  • bait and switch

also see:

  • fish or cut bait
  • jump at (the bait)
  • rise to the bait
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.