with bated breath


1 [beyt]
verb (used with object), bated, bating.
to moderate or restrain: unable to bate our enthusiasm.
to lessen or diminish; abate: setbacks that bated his hopes.
verb (used without object), bated, bating.
to diminish or subside; abate.
with bated breath, with breath drawn in or held because of anticipation or suspense: We watched with bated breath as the runners approached the finish line.

1250–1300; Middle English, aphetic variant of abate

baited, bated.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
Cite This Source Link To with bated breath
World English Dictionary
bate1 (beɪt)
1.  another word for abate
2.  with bated breath holding one's breath in suspense or fear

bate2 (beɪt)
(intr) (of hawks) to jump violently from a perch or the falconer's fist, often hanging from the leash while struggling to escape
[C13: from Old French batre to beat, from Latin battuere; related to bat1]

bate3 (beɪt)
1.  to soak (skin or hides) in a special solution to soften them and remove chemicals used in previous treatments
2.  the solution used
[Old English bǣtan to bait1]

bate4 (beɪt)
slang (Brit) a bad temper or rage
[C19: from bait1, alluding to the mood of a person who is being baited]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
Cite This Source
Word Origin & History

"to reduce, to lessen in intensity," c.1300, aphetic of abate (q.v.). Now only in phrase bated breath, which was used by Shakespeare in "The Merchant of Venice" (1596).

c.1300, "to contend with blows or arguments," from O.Fr. batre "to hit, beat, strike," from L.L. battere, from L. batuere "to beat, knock" (see batter (v.)). In falconry, "to beat the wings impatiently and flutter away from the perch." Figurative sense of "to flutter downward" attested from 1580s.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source
American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

with bated breath

Eagerly or anxiously, as in We waited for the announcement of the winner with bated breath. This expression literally means "holding one's breath" (bate means "restrain"). Today it is also used somewhat ironically, indicating one is not all that eager or anxious. [Late 1500s] Also see hold one's breath, def. 2.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
Cite This Source
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature