\ 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

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Other Words from bait


baiter noun

Synonyms for bait

Synonyms: Verb

Synonyms: Noun

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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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb What question would someone be able to bait you with? Los Angeles Times, "Ziwe is here to revolutionize late night. Even better if it makes you uncomfortable," 6 May 2021 Still, because there wasn’t enough Oscar bait to fill out the entire ballot, a few intriguing selections did pop up on the margins. Nate Jones, Vulture, "What Did We Learn From This Strange Oscars Season?," 3 May 2021 In the spring of 2018, the Darwish-Celas mirage was convincing enough to bait employees of a cryptocurrency exchange in Hong Kong into downloading infected software. Ed Caesar, The New Yorker, "The Incredible Rise of North Korea’s Hacking Army," 19 Apr. 2021 Some said the low turnout could have been a strategy and believe white nationalist groups have used similar events in the past to bait them into confrontations. oregonlive, "White nationalist rallies fizzled last week so why are far-right groups celebrating?," 15 Apr. 2021 Some said the low turnout could have been a strategy, and believe white nationalist groups have used similar events in the past to bait them into confrontations. Los Angeles Times, "‘White Lives Matter’ rallies fizzled. Hate groups still see chance to ‘fire up the base’," 14 Apr. 2021 Many of the young anglers came into the session not knowing how to bait a hook or cast a line. Emmett Hall,, "Pompano Beach Kids Fishing Club hooking young anglers," 1 Apr. 2021 Mummichog researchers used to bait the traps with high-end fish food, but then someone—no one remembers who—figured out that what the fish really like is cheap, store-brand hot dogs. Carrie Arnold, The Atlantic, "This Tiny Fish Can Withstand Almost Anything," 15 Mar. 2021 Baltimore cut bait the following August after Thomas punched teammate Chuck Clark in practice. Nate Davis, USA TODAY, "NFL free agency 2021: The 21 worst free agent moves in league history," 17 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Deuce meets a series of unusual women when a pimp uses him as bait to find a killer. Ed Stockly, Los Angeles Times, "Movies on TV this week ‘Pulp Fiction’ on BBC America and IFC," 9 Apr. 2021 Ironically, many Alaska fishermen purchase herring for use as bait from the East Coast. Anchorage Daily News, "Pandemic boosted sales of Alaska canned salmon to record levels," 30 Mar. 2021 Other valuable fisheries included menhaden, a fish which is used as bait for lobster, and oysters, which are grown by aquaculture businesses. From Usa Today Network And Wire Reports, USA TODAY, "Nursing home isolation, Oahu weddings, eligibility rolls: News from around our 50 states," 29 Mar. 2021 Tavernier explores a murder committed by two boys and a girl, with the girl acting as bait. Carmel Dagan,, "Acclaimed French director of ‘Around Midnight’ Bertrand Tavernier is dead aged 79," 25 Mar. 2021 The rest is processed as feed for chickens and farmed fish, or used as bait for commercial and recreational fishing. Layla Schlack, San Francisco Chronicle, "The Bay Area is hooked on chic, salty tinned fish. But its sustainability is not clear cut," 21 Mar. 2021 And, of course, Douglas also has Darnold as trade bait. Mark Craig, Star Tribune, "Quarterback scramble in NFL ready to start," 13 Mar. 2021 Now that Pelligrini has Assane's son in his clutches and plans to use him as bait, his father has no choice but go embark on a Taken-esque mission to save him. Natalie Morin,, "Merci, Netflix! Lupin Is Coming Back Sooner Than You Think," 7 Mar. 2021 Another option: LaBrie suggests Fly Spot, an effective bait that attracts and kills flies in 60 seconds or less. Washington Post, "It’s outdoor entertaining season. Here’s how to keep the bugs at bay.," 26 Apr. 2021

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.

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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

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Learn More about bait

Time Traveler for bait

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for bait

Last Updated

10 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Bait.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for bait



English Language Learners Definition of bait

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to put a piece of food on (a hook) or in (a trap) in order to attract and catch fish or animals
: to try to make (someone) angry by using criticism or insults
: to use dogs to make (an animal, such as a bear or bull) angry or afraid



English Language Learners Definition of bait (Entry 2 of 2)

: something (such as a piece of food) that is used to attract fish or animals so they can be caught


\ 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.

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