bait 1 (bāt)
a. Food or other lure placed on a hook or in a trap and used in the taking of fish, birds, or other animals.
b. Something, such as a worm, used for this purpose.
2. An enticement, temptation, or provocation: He did not take the bait by responding to the taunt and getting drawn into an argument.
v. bait·ed, bait·ing, baits
1. To place a lure in (a trap) or on (a fishing hook).
2. To entice or provoke, especially by trickery or strategy: He baited me into selling him my bike by saying how much I deserved a better one.
3. To set dogs upon (a chained animal, for example) for sport.
4. To taunt or torment (someone), as with persistent insults or ridicule: "He baited him mercilessly and had all sorts of unpleasant names for him" (Ruth Prawer Jhabvala).
5. To feed (an animal), especially on a journey.
To stop for food or rest during a trip.
[Middle English, from Old Norse beita, food, fodder, fish bait. V., from Old Norse beita, to put animals to pasture, hunt with dogs; see bheid- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Usage Note: The word baited is sometimes incorrectly substituted for the etymologically correct but unfamiliar word bated ("abated; suspended") in the expression bated breath.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
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