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[beyt] /beɪt/
food, or some substitute, used as a lure in fishing, trapping, etc.
a poisoned lure used in exterminating pests.
an allurement; enticement:
Employees were lured with the bait of annual bonuses.
an object for pulling molten or liquefied material, as glass, from a vat or the like by adhesion.
South Midland and Southern U.S.
  1. a large or sufficient quantity or amount:
    He fetched a good bait of wood.
  2. an excessive quantity or amount.
British Slang. food.
verb (used with object)
to prepare (a hook or trap) with bait.
to entice by deception or trickery so as to entrap or destroy:
using fake signal lights to bait the ships onto the rocks.
to attract, tempt, or captivate.
to set dogs upon (an animal) for sport.
to worry, torment, or persecute, especially with malicious remarks:
a nasty habit of baiting defenseless subordinates.
to tease:
They love to bait him about his gaudy ties.
to feed and water (a horse or other animal), especially during a journey.
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 forms
baiter, noun
overbait, verb (used with object)
rebait, verb (used with object)
unbait, verb (used with object)
Can be confused
bait, bate.
baited, bated.
11. badger, heckle, pester. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for bait
  • For centuries, fishermen have been concocting various potions intended to stimulate their prey to take lure or bait.
  • The bait to attract foreign carmakers was access to a huge potential market.
  • Trap after trap is empty, the bait nibbled by weasels too light to trip the mechanism.
  • One of the best ways to avoid becoming bait is to understand that you are not a seer.
  • Such articles of yours work as bait for trout fishing.
  • Be careful with such controls if children or pets use the garden, since bait is attractive to them.
  • It takes saintliness and iron self-discipline not to respond to bait as alluring as this.
  • It is not a real biggie to me unless someone is trying to bait me by using it.
  • The next couple of frames show it with its trophy bait fish.
  • The wildlife division trapped deer for one day, and quit because the bait attracted the hogs, which tore up the traps.
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 bate4
(Northern English, dialect) food, esp a packed lunch
(archaic) a short stop for refreshment during a journey
(transitive) to put a piece of food on or in (a hook or trap)
(transitive) to persecute or tease
(transitive) to entice; tempt
(transitive) to set dogs upon (a bear, etc)
(transitive) (archaic) to feed (a horse), esp during a break in a journey
(intransitive) (archaic) to stop for rest and refreshment during a journey
Usage note
The phrase with bated breath is sometimes wrongly spelled with baited breath
Word Origin
C13: from Old Norse beita to hunt, persecute; related to Old English bǣtan to restrain, hunt, Old High German beizen


a variant spelling of bate2
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
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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
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Idioms and Phrases with bait


In addition to the idiom beginning with
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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