1. food, or some substitute, used as a lure in fishing, trapping, etc.
  2. a poisoned lure used in exterminating pests.
  3. an allurement; enticement: Employees were lured with the bait of annual bonuses.
  4. an object for pulling molten or liquefied material, as glass, from a vat or the like by adhesion.
  5. 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.
  6. British Slang. food.

verb (used with object)

  1. to prepare (a hook or trap) with bait.
  2. to entice by deception or trickery so as to entrap or destroy: using fake signal lights to bait the ships onto the rocks.
  3. to attract, tempt, or captivate.
  4. to set dogs upon (an animal) for sport.
  5. to worry, torment, or persecute, especially with malicious remarks: a nasty habit of baiting defenseless subordinates.
  6. to tease: They love to bait him about his gaudy ties.
  7. to feed and water (a horse or other animal), especially during a journey.

verb (used without object) Archaic.

  1. to stop for food or refreshment during a journey.
  2. (of a horse or other animal) to take food; feed.


  1. 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
  2. an enticement; temptation
  3. a variant spelling of bate 4
  4. Northern English dialect food, esp a packed lunch
  5. archaic a short stop for refreshment during a journey


  1. (tr) to put a piece of food on or in (a hook or trap)
  2. (tr) to persecute or tease
  3. (tr) to entice; tempt
  4. (tr) to set dogs upon (a bear, etc)
  5. (tr) archaic to feed (a horse), esp during a break in a journey
  6. (intr) archaic to stop for rest and refreshment during a journey


  1. a variant spelling of bate 2

“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.

In addition to the idiom beginning with bait

  • bait and switch

also see:

  • fish or cut bait
  • jump at (the bait)
  • rise to the bait

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

44 queries 1.135