\ 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

As Price notes, many old-fashioned infrastructures are enjoying an unlikely comeback, sometimes by baiting the trap: libraries now get people in the door by loaning lawnmowers, croquet sets, cake pans, and other nonliterary essentials. Dan Chiasson, The New Yorker, "Reader, I Googled It," 26 Aug. 2019 Ferrell told his fellow rookie after baiting his hook. Jon Becker, The Mercury News, "Here’s how Raiders made sure ‘Hard Knocks’ wasn’t a distraction," 4 Sep. 2019 Massachusetts investigators have accused a Cape Cod man of trying to injure squirrels in a public park by baiting at least one razor blade with peanut butter. Fox News, "Cape Cod man accused of baiting razor blade with peanut butter to attract squirrels," 1 Sep. 2019 The 2019 bans represent the second time this decade baiting and feeding has been prohibited in northwestern Wisconsin. Paul A. Smith, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Smith: An elk that died on a farm in Burnett County had CWD, so a feeding and baiting ban is imminent," 28 Aug. 2019 The network took a hit on social media and among some critics for baiting candidates and provoking conflict. David Bauder, Fortune, "Poking and Prodding: Did the CNN Democratic Debate Go Too Far?," 2 Aug. 2019 This vile Muslim-baiting film should never have seen the light of day. Cnaan Liphshiz,, "British right-wing pundit Katie Hopkins earns scorn, some Jewish support, for her attacks on Muslims," 23 July 2019 Neither did a guarantee of victory by running back Karan Higdon, who was basically baited by a question and wasn’t out to make a bold proclamation. Doug Lesmerises,, "Probing the unpredictable mind of Jim Harbaugh about his Urban Meyer comment: Doug Lesmerises," 19 July 2019 The congresswomen responded in a news conference, urging Americans not to be baited or distracted by Trump's taunts. Doug Criss, CNN, "5 things to know for July 16: Racist tweets, Assange, Puerto Rico, teens & screens," 16 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Hook requirements: Non-stainless circle hooks are required when using natural bait for gulf reef fish. al, "Saltwater fishing limits change Aug. 1; new fee in 2020," 30 July 2019 Crickets and mealworms — farmed for decades in the American Southeast, first as bait for fishers — had long been the twin pillars of the lizard-food industry. Christopher Ingraham, Washington Post, "Maggots: A taste of food’s future," 3 July 2019 Among the most iconic are deep-sea fishes like the anglerfish, whose females sport a lure of glowing flesh that acts as bait for any prey close enough to be snatched. Liz Langley, National Geographic, "How bioluminescence works in nature," 2 May 2019 The popular characters are bait for advertisers looking to lure trend-conscious consumers. Aric Jenkins, Fortune, "Disney Is Using Its Stockpile of Blockbuster Franchises to Increase Ad Sales," 15 May 2018 Toxic baits for rat control are sold at retail stores. Michael Harrelson,, "Keep it clean to spare citrus from rats," 12 Apr. 2018 The Rams dangled cornerback Trumaine Johnson to the Saints as trade bait for Cooks, but the Patriots offered the Saints a first-round pick in the 2018 draft. Tribune News Service,, "Brandin Cooks, now with Rams, has a lot of experience playing with elite QBs," 7 Apr. 2018 The looks from the Met Gala red carpet are the perfect bait for hilarious tweets and memes. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "The Funniest Tweets About the Met Gala," 1 May 2017 If someone tries to take over, don’t take the bait. Eugenia Last, The Mercury News, "Horoscopes: Aug. 1, 2019," 1 Aug. 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

11 Sep 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

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authorized for issue (as a bond)

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