\ 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

hassle, haze, heckle, needle, ride, taunt, tease

Synonyms: Noun

decoy, lure

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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


baiting hooks with live worms The interviewer kept baiting the politician by asking him whether he was lying.


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

To avoid peripheral casualties, the Fish and Wildlife Service plans to conduct poison baiting in November and December — no sooner than the end of 2020 — when the mouse population is declining because of lack of food. Will Houston, The Mercury News, "Bay Area critics decry Fed’s plan to use banned rodent poison on Farallon Islands," 8 July 2019 The intense exchange came less than two weeks after Biden came under harsh criticism for boasting about his ability to form personal relationships in past decades with race-baiting former Sens. Jonathan Allen, NBC News, "Kamala Harris, Joe Biden in tense exchange on busing at Democratic debate," 28 June 2019 In the south, beef is widely eaten and when the Supreme Court banned jallikattu, a Tamil form of bull-baiting, hundreds of thousands turned out in protest. The Economist, "Why India’s south confounds the otherwise all-conquering Narendra Modi," 21 June 2019 To be an ally is to understand the difference between advocating and baiting. De Elizabeth, Teen Vogue, "Taylor Swift Responds to Rumor That She and Katy Perry Will Kiss in "You Need to Calm Down" Music Video," 15 June 2019 Chloe got stuck in a Conibear trap that was in a tree just off the trail and baited with fish heads, Shaffer said. Tegan Hanlon, Anchorage Daily News, "New restrictions on where people can trap in the Anchorage municipality go into effect Friday," 7 June 2019 The process starts with the longline being baited and draped out in tight squiggle across the waters of the Bering Sea. Kelli Bender,, "We Tried it: Tracing a Natural, Sustainable Pet Food to Its Source Out in Alaska's Bering Sea," 25 June 2019 For years, his father’s presence was required, to bait the hook or untangle the line or take apart the reel to see what was wrong inside. Dave Orrick, Twin Cities, "The story of the 6-year-old boy who made his dad take him fishing," 15 June 2019 Lowry is a master at drawing contact, while Gasol and Ibaka should try to bait Cousins down low early. Michael Shapiro,, "How DeMarcus Cousins Helped Flip the NBA Finals," 5 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Perhaps the most difficult decision in sports is when to cut bait on a good team in quest of a great one. Robby General, Indianapolis Star, "What experts are saying about Kawhi Leonard, Paul George joining the Los Angeles Clippers," 6 July 2019 The Libra’s announcement effectively functioned as a bait-and-switch, shifting the conversation about why society should actually be worried about Facebook. Matthew De Silva, Quartz, "Libra may be Facebook’s best defense against its enemies," 27 June 2019 But Pelosi and Jeffries have developed a kind of bait-and-switch. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "House Leadership Is Looking Flakey," 17 June 2019 This time, Tam mailed signed posters to the fans left jilted by the concert bait-and-switch. Nathan Rizzo | For The Oregonian/oregonlive,, "‘Slanted’ tells the story of Portland Asian American band’s fight to keep its name," 9 June 2019 That kind of value is bait for stockpickers, who hope to sort good long-term bets from the ones that might turn ugly. The Economist, "Russia is heaven for bondholders and hell for stockpickers," 29 June 2019 Sandusky Bay catfish are biting on nightcrawlers, chicken livers and cut bait. D'arcy Egan,, "If you aren’t catching walleye on Lake Erie, you aren’t trying: June 14 Fishing Report," 14 June 2019 After multiple deals that yielded roughly one pound of methamphetamine each, the confidential source tried to arrange with a meeting with the group’s supplier, using a 10-pound order as bait. Nate Gartrell, The Mercury News, "Feds bust alleged meth trafficking ring in Concord, but secret DEA source fails to get meeting with main supplier," 11 June 2019 The shad is sold as bait to sturgeon fishermen, who fish for the prehistoric-looking bottom-feeders in the deep pools behind the dams. Corey Arnold, National Geographic, "Why wild salmon remains king in the Pacific Northwest," 27 Mar. 2019

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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Statistics for bait

Last Updated

17 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for bait

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

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on bait

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with bait

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for bait

Spanish Central: Translation of bait

Nglish: Translation of bait for Spanish Speakers

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

Comments on bait

What made you want to look up bait? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


something desired as essential

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