a cereal grass, Avena sativa, cultivated for its edible seed.
Usually oats. (used with a singular or plural verb) the seed of this plant, used as a food for humans and animals.
any of several plants of the same genus, as the wild oat.
Archaic. a musical pipe made of an oat straw.


    feel one's oats, Informal.
    1. to feel frisky or lively.
    2. to be aware of and use one's importance or power.
    sow one's wild oats. wild oat(def 3).

Origin of oat

before 900; Middle English ote, Old English āte
Related formsoat·like, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for oats

wheat, grain, corn, rice, bran, feed, fodder, forage, provisions, straw, hay, chow, viands, oats, rye

Examples from the Web for oats

Contemporary Examples of oats

Historical Examples of oats

  • The boy might find it if you put it among the oats—feedin' the horses, ye know.

  • Some had all the venison and bear meat they wanted, but no barley or oats.

    Welsh Fairy Tales

    William Elliott Griffis

  • I have seen barley and oats in that country three feet high.

    The History of Louisiana

    Le Page Du Pratz

  • The lad's hair was inclined to be carroty, while that of the girl suggested the color of oats.


    Emile Zola

  • Why, one might bury millions there without reaping a single bushel of oats!


    Emile Zola

British Dictionary definitions for oats



an erect annual grass, Avena sativa, grown in temperate regions for its edible seed
(usually plural) the seeds or fruits of this grass
any of various other grasses of the genus Avena, such as the wild oat
poetic a flute made from an oat straw
feel one's oats US and Canadian informal
  1. to feel exuberant
  2. to feel self-important
get one's oats slang to have sexual intercourse
sow one's oats or sow one's wild oats to indulge in adventure or promiscuity during youth

Word Origin for oat

Old English āte, of obscure origin
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 oats



Old English ate (plural atan) "grain of the oat plant, wild oats," of uncertain origin, possibly from Old Norse eitill "nodule," denoting a single grain, of unknown origin. The English word has cognates in Frisian and some Dutch dialects. Famously defined by Johnson as, "A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people."

The usual Germanic name is derived from Proto-Germanic *khabran (cf. Old Norse hafri, Dutch haver, source of haversack). Wild oats, "crop that one will regret sowing," is first attested 1560s, in reference to the folly of sowing these instead of good grain.

That wilfull and vnruly age, which lacketh rypenes and discretion, and (as wee saye) hath not sowed all theyr wyeld Oates. [Thomas Newton, "Lemnie's Touchstone of complexions," 1576]

Fred Sanford: I still want to sow some wild oats!
Lamont Sanford: At your age, you don't have no wild oats, you got shredded wheat.
["Sanford and Son"]

Hence, to feel (one's) oats "be lively," 1831, originally American English.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with oats


see feel one's oats; sow one's wild oats.

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