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Bait vs. Bate: Do You Know the Difference?

Do you know the difference between Bait and Bate? Read this article to make sure that you are using these words correctly.

3:04 min read
  Teri Lapping  —  Grammar Tips
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Bait vs. Bate: Do You Know the Difference?

You know the expression, “…with bated/baited breath…” 

What do you think? Is it spelled "bait” or “bate”? Are you sure?

The words “bait” and “bate” are homophones, which means they are pronounced the same, but their spelling and meaning is different. These two words are often used interchangeably and incorrectly.

Continue reading to find out which is which. 

The Word “Bait”

The word “bait” comes from the Middle English word, “bayte, beite,” from the Old Norse word “beita,” and from the Old English word “bat,” all meaning “food, something that can be bitten.” Interestingly, the word “bait” is related to the word “bite.”

In its usage today, the word “bait” has more than one meaning and can be either a noun or a verb.

As a noun: 

“Bait” is the food or material that is used to trap or net an animal, or to hook a fish, sometimes containing poison or other harmful ingredients.
For example, “The cheese didn’t work, so the exterminator put a different bait in the trap.”

It can also be used to mean “a temptation, an enticement, something used to lure a victim into a certain situation.” This definition can be used metaphorically, as in “to take the bait.

For example, “Although the prospective buyers loved the renovated kitchen, they did not take the bait.”

As a verb:
“Bait” means “to entice, to lure, or tempt.”

For example, “My company baited me with a slightly higher salary, but I wasn’t fooled.”

“Bait” can also mean “to intentionally annoy, ridicule, taunt, torment, tease, or provoke.”

For example, “His classmates baited him incessantly when he walked through the halls.”

The Word “Bate”

The word “bate” is derived from the Middle English word “baten,” which means “to abate, to lessen.”

Most popularly, the word “bate” is usually used in the expression, “with bated breath,” meaning "excitedly or anxiously."

For example, “We watched with bated breath while the diver flew from the diving board.”

The word “bate” can be used as a verb or a noun.

As a verb:

“Bate” means the same as “abate “– “to become gradually less intense, to become more moderate, to lower, to reduce, to restrain.”

For example, 
“I was unable to bate my disappointment.” 
“The employer bated the employee’s benefits.”
“She was incapable of bating her enthusiasm when she saw what was in the box.”

Also used as a verb, the word “bate” means “to flap one’s wings vigorously, to flutter, to beat.”

For example, “The eagle frantically bated its wings as it raced toward its prey.”   

As a noun:

“Bate” refers to the liquid in which animal skins are steeped to make them more supple. It also describes the alkaline lye which balances the effects of lime. 

For example, “The leather is steeped in bate to make it softer.”

Final Thoughts

Now you can tell the difference between the two words “bait” and “bate.” 

Take this small quiz to check your expertise:

1. I waited for her entrance with (bated, baited) breath.
2. They called me names and threw stones, but I didn’t take the (bate, bait.)
3. The (bate, bait) was ready and waiting in the vat.
4. When the hawk (bated, baited) it’s wings, it flew even faster.
5. The worm served as the perfect (bate, bait.)
6. My family (bated, baited) me with the fudge, although I didn’t want to eat foods with sugar. 


1. Bated
2. Bait
3. Bate
4. Bated
5. Bait
6. Baited

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1 Comment
  • JokerGem
    I was baited to check out this article...LoL. ;-)
    LikeReply 11 year ago


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