\ ˈbāt How to pronounce bait (audio) \
baited; baiting; baits

Definition of bait

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to persecute or exasperate with unjust, malicious, or persistent attacks bait minority groups : to try to make angry with criticism or insults baiting a politician during a debate
b : tease
2a : to harass (a chained animal, such as a bear) with dogs usually for sport
b : to attack by biting and tearing dogs baiting a fox
3a : to furnish with bait (see bait entry 2) bait a fishing line bait a trap
b : entice, lure baiting prospective buyers
4 : to give food and drink to (an animal) especially on the road

intransitive verb

archaic : to stop for food and rest when traveling



Definition of bait (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : something (such as food) used in luring especially to a hook or trap using worms for bait
b : a poisonous material placed where it will be eaten by harmful or objectionable animals
2 : lure, temptation using bargains as bait for shoppers

Other Words from bait


baiter noun

Synonyms for bait

Synonyms: Verb

Synonyms: Noun

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Choose the Right Synonym for bait


bait, badger, heckle, hector, chivy, hound mean to harass by efforts to break down. bait implies wanton cruelty or delight in persecuting a helpless victim. baited the chained dog badger implies pestering so as to drive a person to confusion or frenzy. badgered her father for a car heckle implies persistent annoying or belligerent interruptions of a speaker. drunks heckled the stand-up comic hector carries an implication of bullying and domineering. football players hectored by their coach chivy suggests persecution by teasing or nagging. chivied the new student mercilessly hound implies unrelenting pursuit and harassing. hounded by creditors

Examples of bait in a Sentence

Verb baiting hooks with live worms The interviewer kept baiting the politician by asking him whether he was lying. Noun cheese used for bait in mousetraps Wait until the fish takes the bait. a wide selection of lures and baits
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The term comes from the practice of wiggling your fingers underwater like wet noodles to bait a catfish. Matt Carney, Outside Online, 15 June 2022 Disney also shrank Jon Boyega's picture on Chinese movie posters and bait and switched the black audience marketing Finn as a Jedi. Lester Fabian Brathwaite,, 1 June 2022 Thanks to social media, everyday people are thrust into the role of performers, putting themselves forward at all times, hoping to bait the algorithms and, in turn, your eyes. New York Times, 4 Apr. 2022 China’s intelligence services have also used the pilgrimage to bait Uighurs in safe European jurisdictions. Time, 24 Mar. 2022 Following footprints to better bait Phishing attacks have doubled from early 2020. Ravi Sen, The Conversation, 8 Apr. 2022 As Curry ignored Porter’s efforts to bait him, Curry’s teammates had a sense of what was to come. Connor Letourneau, San Francisco Chronicle, 31 Jan. 2022 In the past, various governments have tried to use the allure of fast cash to bait pilots to switch sides during a conflict—a tempting offer for pilots who don’t make much money, and may not agree with their government’s policies. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, 16 Mar. 2022 Euphoria has always been refreshing in its depiction of teenage life; even the more outrageous story lines don’t feel specifically designed to bait us. Raven Smith, Vogue, 26 Jan. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Walleye catches soar, but lots of sorting: The Lake Erie walleye fishing has been consistently outstanding this spring and summer, but now the youngsters buoying the walleye population are hungry, and eager to bite on lures and live bait. D'arcy Egan, cleveland, 28 July 2022 They were believed to have originally spread from being purchased as composting worms and fishing bait. Sarah Bowman, The Indianapolis Star, 26 July 2022 Turgeon, who put up 106 points two years before, became trade bait after slipping to 79 points. Matt Porter,, 23 July 2022 After trying fruitlessly to catch them by putting out feed as bait, Jones and Medlin and the other ranch hands rounded them up in September with the help of a helicopter. Susan Carroll, NBC News, 22 July 2022 The idea was to provide snacks, candies, and groceries, as well as things local residents and visitors want, including local produce, bait and tackle, and items from local crafters. Steve Smith, Hartford Courant, 13 July 2022 This bait usually turns out to be as real as pixie dust. William Arruda, Forbes, 12 July 2022 This whole performance was, reportedly, bait for bookies located more than 5,000 kilometres away—in Russia. Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz, 11 July 2022 Crews are putting down snail bait at properties near the sighting — basically a pesticide for catching and killing snails. al, 8 July 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'bait.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of bait


13th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for bait


Middle English, from Old Norse beita; akin to Old English bǣtan to bait, bītan to bite — more at bite


Middle English, from Old Norse beit pasturage & beita food; akin to Old English bītan to bite

Learn More About bait

Time Traveler for bait

Time Traveler

The first known use of bait was in the 13th century

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near bait



bait and switch

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for bait

Last Updated

9 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Bait.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Aug. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for bait


\ ˈbāt How to pronounce bait (audio) \

Kids Definition of bait

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: something that is used to attract fish or animals so they can be caught


baited; baiting

Kids Definition of bait (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to put something (as food) on or in to attract and catch fish or animals bait a trap
2 : to torment by mean or unjust attacks They baited him by using a nickname he hated.

More from Merriam-Webster on bait

Nglish: Translation of bait for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of bait for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about bait


Test Your Vocabulary

The Great British Vocabulary Quiz

  • union jack speech bubble
  • Named after Sir Robert Peel, what are British police called?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!