have bats in one’s belfry


  1. any of numerous flying mammals of the order Chiroptera, of worldwide distribution in tropical and temperate regions, having modified forelimbs that serve as wings and are covered with a membranous skin extending to the hind limbs.
  1. blind as a bat, nearly or completely blind; having very poor vision: Anyone can tell that he’s blind as a bat, but he won’t wear glasses.
  2. have bats in one’s belfry, Informal. to have crazy ideas; be very peculiar, erratic, or foolish: If you think you can row across the ocean in that boat, you have bats in your belfry.


  1. any of various types of club with a handle, used to hit the ball in certain sports, such as cricket, baseball, or table tennis
  2. a flat round club with a short handle, resembling a table-tennis bat, used by a man on the ground to guide the pilot of an aircraft when taxiing
  3. cricket short for batsman
  4. any stout stick, esp a wooden one
  5. informal a blow from such a stick
  6. Australian a small board used for tossing the coins in the game of two-up
  7. US and Canadian slang a drinking spree; binge
  8. slang speed; rate; pacethey went at a fair bat
  9. another word for batting (def. 1)
  10. carry one’s bat cricket (of an opening batsman) to reach the end of an innings without being dismissed
  11. off one’s own bat
    1. of one’s own accord; without being prompted by someone else
    2. by one’s own unaided efforts
  12. off the bat or right off the bat US and Canadian informal immediately; without hesitation

verb bats, batting or batted

  1. (tr) to strike with or as if with a bat
  2. (intr) sport (of a player or a team) to take a turn at batting


  1. any placental mammal of the order Chiroptera, being a nocturnal mouselike animal flying with a pair of membranous wings (patagia). The group is divided into the Megachiroptera (fruit bats) and Microchiroptera (insectivorous bats)Related adjective: chiropteran
  2. slang an irritating or eccentric woman (esp in the phrase old bat)
  3. blind as a bat having extremely poor eyesight
  4. have bats in the belfry or have bats in one’s belfry informal to be mad or eccentric; have strange ideas
  5. like a bat out of hell slang very quickly

verb bats, batting or batted (tr)

  1. to wink or flutter (one’s eyelids)
  2. not bat an eye or not bat an eyelid informal to show no surprise or concern

“to hit with a bat,” mid-15c., from bat (n.1). Related: Batted; batting.


“a stick, a club,” Old English *batt “cudgel,” perhaps from Celtic (cf. Irish and Gaelic bat, bata “staff, cudgel”), influenced by Old French batte, from Late Latin battre “beat;” all from PIE root *bhat- “to strike.” Also “a lump, piece” (mid-14c.), as in brickbat. As a kind of paddle used to play cricket, it is attested from 1706.

Phrase right off the bat is 1888, also hot from the bat (1888), probably a baseball metaphor, but cricket is possible as a source; there is an early citation from Australia (in an article about slang): “Well, it is a vice you’d better get rid of then. Refined conversation is a mark of culture. Let me hear that kid use slang again, and I’ll give it to him right off the bat. I’ll wipe up the floor with him. I’ll —” [“The Australian Journal,” November 1888].


flying mammal (order Chiroptera), 1570s, a dialectal alteration of Middle English bakke (early 14c.), which is probably related to Old Swedish natbakka, Old Danish nathbakkæ “night bat,” and Old Norse leðrblaka “leather flapper,” so original sense is likely “flapper.” The shift from -k- to -t- may have come through confusion of bakke with Latin blatta “moth, nocturnal insect.”

Old English word for the animal was hreremus, from hreran “to shake” (see rare (adj.2)), and rattle-mouse is attested from late 16c., an old dialectal word for “bat.” As a contemptuous term for an old woman, perhaps a suggestion of witchcraft (cf. fly-by-night), or from bat as “prostitute who plies her trade by night” [Farmer, who calls it “old slang” and finds French equivalent “night swallow” (hirondelle de nuit) “more poetic”].


“to move the eyelids,” 1847, American English, from earlier sense of “flutter as a hawk” (1610s), a variant of bate (v.2) on the notion of fluttering wings. Related: Batted; batting.

In addition to the idioms beginning with bat

  • bat an eye
  • bat around
  • bat one thousand
  • bats in one’s belfry, have
  • bat the breeze

also see:

  • at bat
  • blind as a bat
  • bats in one’s belfry
  • go to bat for
  • like a bat out of hell

right off the bat.

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