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[oht] /oʊt/
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 forms
oatlike, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for oats
  • They owned a strong and productive horse with one flaw, its need for expensive oats.
  • oats and maple also pair nicely in scones, cookies or even beer.
  • Freshly toasted oats, lightly sweetened with local honey and real maple syrup.
  • These sinfully rich bars pack the benefits of whole-wheat flour, wheat germ, and rolled oats.
  • Place the oats in a bowl and toss with the oil until thoroughly coated.
  • Other tasty and healthy alternatives to cow's milk include those made from rice, almonds, oats-and even hemp.
  • oats and rye were domesticated much later than other grains.
  • Ears of oats are inserted in its nostrils and mouth, and it is adorned with garlands of flowers.
  • Ay, sir, they be ready: the oats have eaten the horses.
  • The price of oats is a better price than was to be had on the average of protective times.
British Dictionary definitions for oats


an erect annual grass, Avena sativa, grown in temperate regions for its edible seed
(usually pl) 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
(US & Canadian, informal) feel one's oats
  1. to feel exuberant
  2. to feel self-important
(slang) get one's oats, to have sexual intercourse
sow one's oats, sow one's wild oats, to indulge in adventure or promiscuity during youth
Word Origin
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
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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
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Idioms and Phrases with oats
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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