\ 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

The news release said squirrels came in contact with a razor blade in a tree that McGrath had been observed baiting by officers conducting surveillance. Fox News, "Cape Cod man accused of baiting razor blade with peanut butter to attract squirrels," 1 Sep. 2019 The answer to weirdness in general -- baiting, manipulating, lying, guilting, throwing tantrums -- is to be aggressively unweird. Carolyn Hax, al, "Carolyn Hax: Is there a sensitive way to offer to be a surrogate?," 4 Sep. 2019 Biologists had hoped that Hillary would voluntarily enter a small pen that the biologists had built on the island and baited with watermelon and food pellets. Steve Rubenstein,, "Rescue comes at long last for Hillary the donkey," 23 Aug. 2019 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Each episode of Friends engages in a cheerful act of bait-and-switch. Megan Garber, The Atlantic, "On Chandler Bing’s Job," 12 Sep. 2019 These more than make up for the linearity of the chapter (not to mention the bait-and-switch on plot resolution in an emotional-but-unsatisfying ending). Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "Gears 5 review: An obvious gaming recommendation—if you already paid for it," 10 Sep. 2019 Jawline turns out to have been a bait-and-switch, as the fantasy of Austyn’s fame dissolves into regular old Tennessee poverty. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "Jawline Explores the Teenage Dream of Social Media," 22 Aug. 2019 An expert fisherman, seeking to discover why the bait is vanishing, manages to hook Raven’s nose and remove it. David James, Anchorage Daily News, "These books will keep kids reading this summer - and discovering Alaska in the process," 6 July 2019 When a dozen or more bass start busting the bait, the leaping shad and splashing water can be seen for a considerable distance, simplifying the task of knowing where to cast. Frank Sargeant, al, "Fry-size shad provide tasty treat for bass and anglers," 15 Sep. 2019 Her gesture was rewarded when, moments later, a hefty fish took her bait. Diane Bairand Pamela Wright,, "Welcome to the Lake Winnipesaukee of the South," 4 Sep. 2019 In this Wednesday, July 17, 2019, photo, an Indian fixes bait for fish, sitting on the dried up bed of Red Hills lake, a 4,500-acre 19th-century reservoir, in Chennai, capital of the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Washington Post, "India’s Chennai rapid growth threatened by water shortages," 5 Aug. 2019 In response to the president’s inevitable race-baiting, gender-baiting and other xenophobic moves, Democrats are probably best advised to avoid taking the bait. Clarence Page,, "Column: Is Trump’s latest race-baiting a 2020 campaign strategy?," 19 July 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

9 Oct 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).


to fake an opponent out of position

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