\ 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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from bait


baiter noun

Synonyms for bait

Synonyms: Verb

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

Synonyms: Noun

decoy, lure

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


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
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The animal made it to the roof early Wednesday, where traps baited with cat food were waiting. Washington Post, "Idaho boy recovering from bubonic plague; state’s first case in more than 40 years," 14 June 2018 The red-baiting ended up serving as some of the most effective attacks against King and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Jason Miller, Smithsonian, "In His Speeches, MLK Carefully Evoked the Poetry of Langston Hughes," 3 Apr. 2018 Breaking out a window or sending down window cleaners would have been too risky, Ms. Donnelly-Coyne said, so officials baited live traps with cat food and placed them on the roof. Matthew Haag, New York Times, "Daredevil Raccoon Climbs Minnesota Skyscraper and Becomes a Sensation," 13 June 2018 The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland came just 16 days after Corcoran launched an expensive, controversial television ad, which brought accusations of race-baiting. Emily L. Mahoney And Mary Ellen Klas, miamiherald, "Why Richard Corcoran failed in his bid to become Florida governor | Miami Herald," 10 May 2018 Only about 4 inches in length, this predator was attracted to traps baited with mackerel. Ashley Strickland, CNN, "Meet the top 10 new species of 2018," 23 May 2018 The irony of Disney canning Roseanne while continuing to employ some of the industries biggest racist and race baiting frauds like Jemele Hill, Bomani Jones, Steve A Smith is not lost on most. William Cummings, USA TODAY, "Here is a list of people who have come to Roseanne Barr's defense," 30 May 2018 That's a once in a lifetime experience where the shark was not baited and thus was super chill. Jennifer Earl, Fox News, "16-foot great white shark comes within 'arm's length' of underwater photographer," 24 Aug. 2018 Becca did not have to deal with being baited with real time questions about her emotions watching certain scenes. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "Rachel Lindsay Says She's a 'Little Pissed Off' About Becca Kufrin's Bachelorette Ending," 7 Aug. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Each bait station consists of a hollow plastic tube and round plastic cap. Joseph Truini, Popular Mechanics, "How to Get Rid of Termites," 8 Jan. 2019 In the 50-second clip, which has been viewed over 9,700 times on YouTube, the 22-year-old baits the reptile with a wallaby carcass in what’s believed to be a wildlife park near Darwin in the North Territory, as per Newsweek. Janine Puhak, Fox News, "Danish tourist slammed by wildlife official for jumping on crocodile," 25 Sep. 2018 Strategies: From shore, the best baits have been Berkley Mice Tails, Power Bait (orange, chartreuse, garlic), dunked in Trout Bait Dip, or with a two-hook rig, adding a nightcrawler on the bottom hook. Tom Stienstra, San Francisco Chronicle, "Sunday getaway to San Pablo Reservoir," 18 Feb. 2018 Anyway, none of the baseball players would kind of take the bait on the question. Fox News, "New data reveals US faces legal immigration crisis," 22 May 2018 Wright was the bait for a sting operation designed to capture drug and gun offenders. Chris Jones,, "'To Catch a Fish' is about a shocking, real-life Milwaukee case of a man used as an ATF pawn," 10 May 2018 There’s a decent chance the rooks at the park simply won’t take the bait, and the park’s management will be stuck with some useless high-tech bird feeders. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "We're About to Find Out If Crows Can Help Solve Our Litter Problem," 14 Aug. 2018 Zwolinski married, had kids and worked in maintenance at Allen-Bradley for 33 years before opening a bait and tackle shop in Cudahy. Jim Stingl, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Stingl: Marine's long-lost painting turns up at a scrap dealer, but the owner won't let it go," 29 June 2018 Croakers, members of the redfish and speckled trout family, are considered bycatch when shrimpers are harvesting bait and table fare. Ralph Winingham, San Antonio Express-News, "Croaker season lights up speckled trout action at Baffin Bay," 28 June 2018

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about bait

Statistics for bait

Last Updated

13 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for bait

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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.

Keep scrolling for more

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).


the way words of a language are spelled

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

A Green Quiz

  • shamrock
  • What is the best definition of green-eyed monster?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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