\ˈbāt \
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

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 In February, Howard created headlines getting baited into guaranteeing a playoff berth on a light-hearted NFL Network segment. David Haugh,, "Quietly, emerging leader Jordan Howard catching onto Bears' new offense," 31 May 2018 First, North Korea comes out as the big winner by baiting Trump into canceling the meeting and having broken maximum pressure with its outreach to China. Sean Illing, Vox, "Trump just canceled the North Korea summit. 9 experts explain what happens now.," 24 May 2018 The difference between LeBron's relief and resentment came from a Green post-up, a Love jumper and Hill's ability to bait defenders into fouls. Rob Mahoney,, "In LeBron James's—Very Short—Absence, the Cavs Show Us Who They Can Be," 29 Apr. 2018 Another reason is that Jared Goff paid close attention to the body language and mechanical nuances that are important for baiting a defense on screens. Andy Benoit,, "The NFL’s Most Dynamic Team? 10 Thoughts on the 2018 Rams," 18 June 2018 Cagle’s campaign complains that Tippins coaxed and baited Casey into saying things. Bill Torpy, ajc, "Torpy at Large: Why Clay ‘The Mole’ Tippins went commando against Cagle," 22 June 2018 Philadelphia got into its offensive sets so quickly that Miami’s attempts to bait Simmons by dropping on pick-and-rolls proved fruitless. Rohan Nadkarni,, "Ben Simmons Proving He Can Thrive As Philly's Lone Star," 16 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The carcasses washed up on the beach range in size from small bait fish to a 26-foot-long whale shark. Jonathan Serrie, Fox News, "Red tide along Florida coast has killed at least 300 tons of fish," 15 Aug. 2018 But if that was the idea, House Democrats aren’t taking the bait. Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, "House Democrats Refuse to Take Bait on ‘Abolish ICE’ Vote Arranged by GOP," 13 July 2018 They are both meant to replicate shad and bunker, two primary bait fish of striped bass. John Peabody, New York Times, "A Growing Brooklyn Fishing Scene, Artisanal Lures Included," 28 June 2018 Those crabbers aren’t buying bait fish from local fishermen. Scott Calvert, WSJ, "Maryland’s Crab Country: Not Enough Visas, Not Enough Workers," 11 May 2018 Successful fishing is often a matter of figuring out which baits fish will hit in specific situations. Todd Masson,, "Spin to win! Roulette wheel decides which baits we fish," 21 Feb. 2018 The lionfish, a fantastical-looking fish native to the Pacific, has colonized the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, decimating the bait fish populations other species need to survive. Sophie Weiner, Popular Mechanics, "Watch A Guy Shoot Invasive Lionfish With A Glock 9mm," 25 Sep. 2016 Based on its all-star lineup and director—McKay is the man behind The Big Short, Succession, Anchorman, and the forthcoming Elizabeth Holmes/Theranos biopic, Bad Blood—Vice is shaping up to be seriously buzzy awards season bait. Michelle Ruiz, Vogue, "The New Vice Trailer Just Might Cure Your Bush Administration Nostalgia," 3 Oct. 2018 To say that the Hello Kitty Grand Café is Instagram bait is a massive understatement — the place is primed for IG, with its themed décor and all that pink. Kara Nesvig, Teen Vogue, "Sanrio to Open First-Ever Hello Kitty Grand Café," 8 Sep. 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.

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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

4 Dec 2018

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 \

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

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