bait

1 of 2

verb

baited; baiting; baits

transitive verb

1
a
: 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
2
a
: 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
3
a
: 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
baiter noun

bait

2 of 2

noun

1
a
: 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
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 prohibition stops a tradition of bear baiting in the state that can be traced back at least several decades, to passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) by Congress in 1980. Steven Hill, Field & Stream, 10 July 2024 Bear baiting is popular in many areas of the state and is sometimes the only effective method for selectively harvesting mature bears — or any bears at all. Tyler Freel, Outdoor Life, 10 July 2024
Noun
Pollster Jeremy Zogby said that Trump started off well but took the bait when Biden stumbled. Paul Bedard, Washington Examiner - Political News and Conservative Analysis About Congress, the President, and the Federal Government, 28 June 2024 Gayle King was looking to get some answers for Yellowstone fans, but Kevin Costner was not taking the bait. Julia Moore, Peoplemag, 27 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for bait 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'bait.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Verb

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

Noun

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

First Known Use

Verb

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

Noun

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near bait

Cite this Entry

“Bait.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bait. Accessed 16 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition

bait

1 of 2 verb
1
: to torment by repeated attacks
2
: to torment (an animal) with dogs
3
: to put bait on or in
bait a hook
baiter noun

bait

2 of 2 noun
1
: something (as food) used to attract animals to a hook or into a trap
2
: a poisonous material put where it will be eaten by and kill harmful or undesirable animals
3
Etymology

Verb

Middle English baiten "to tease, torment," from an early Norse word originally meaning "to cause to bite"

Noun

Middle English bait "a lure," from two early Norse words, one meaning "pasture" and the other meaning "food"

More from Merriam-Webster on bait

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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