\ 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

Synonyms: Noun

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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

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
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb All three instances of entertaining papal drama—the real-life snafu, the Oscar-baiting movie, and, most notably, the prestige TV show—represent unmaskings, though there’s something deeper going on than the simple reminder that the pope is a person. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "The New Pope’s Old Magic," 8 Jan. 2020 In fact, race-baiting propaganda pre-dates the Cold War. Fortune, "What’s Happening With the Rohingya Crisis Now?," 18 Dec. 2019 Moral crusades The Food and Drug Administration has cracked down on e-cigarette makers and sellers—particularly Juul—accusing them of marketing to teens and baiting them with kid-friendly flavor. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, "To try to understand the youths, researchers snooped through their trash," 11 Oct. 2019 After Dempsey dropped with one punch the third-string catcher who had baited him into a fight, the skinny catcher got more attention from the Yankees. Gregory Orfalea, Los Angeles Times, "Rick Dempsey found success in baseball, but his boyhood friend and teammate struggled," 9 Oct. 2019 World-building of that early Star Wars sort is different from how world-building is often talked about today in blockbuster art, which is too caught up with internet-baiting downloads of backstory and mythology. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "The Rise of Skywalker," 21 Dec. 2019 Cohn confidently predicts that his obituary will emphasize his role as aide to the red-baiting Wisconsin senator, Joseph McCarthy. Washington Post, "Trump, the TV president, finally meets a media story he can’t control," 28 Sep. 2019 And there may be a political upside for both: Feuding with liberal leaders like Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron is all good for Trump's brand as the politically incorrect, foreigner-baiting America First bulldog. Stephen Collinson And Caitlin Hu, CNN, "Does the Constitution justify impeaching Trump?," 5 Dec. 2019 But don’t be fooled by the period setting, or the lush vacation-baiting tour of major Italian cityscapes. Darren Franich,, "Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels are the best book series of the decade," 15 Nov. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Most ‘pout baits are simple: big, heavy jigging spoons with lots of glow. Dr. Jason Halfen, Outdoor Life, "5 Fish You Might Not Have Caught Through The Ice But Should," 2 Jan. 2020 Herring are economically important in New England because they’re used as lobster bait. USA TODAY, "Eel-powered tree, skateboard safety, red light on herring: News from around our 50 states," 5 Dec. 2019 But a vote to convict would be bait for a GOP primary challenge that could damage or end their re-election campaigns. Laura Litvan, Fortune, "Trump Impeachment Trial Will Test Vulnerable Incumbent Senators," 30 Dec. 2019 If flavors are the bait that attracts kids to e-cigarettes, nicotine is the hook. Nancy Brown*, STAT, "President Trump: Don’t fail America’s children on flavored e-cigarettes," 18 Nov. 2019 The children are the bait for foreign donations and a volunteer experience, and the money is going into the pockets of the people running the orphanages. J.k. Rowling, Time, "J.K. Rowling: Don't Give Your Time or Money to Orphanages," 25 Oct. 2019 Notch Brewing in Massachusetts even does an all-foam pour (which may admittedly be Instagram bait). Esther Mobley,, "For beer or sparkling wine, stop trying to pour away the foam," 3 Oct. 2019 Live minnows about 4 inches long are the best bait, but some fish can also be caught on small white swimbaits. Frank Sargeant, al, "Friday Fishing Report: How heat wave is affecting the bass bite," 13 Sep. 2019 The bird, Gonzalez admitted, was bait to lure another songbird to land on its pitfall door, which would drop the visitor into the trap and spring shut, preventing its escape. Karine Aigner, National Geographic, "Songbirds are being snatched from Miami’s forests," 25 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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Time Traveler for bait

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for bait

Last Updated

16 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Bait.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 25 January 2020.

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More Definitions for bait


How to pronounce bait (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for bait

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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).


dull or mediocre

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