verb (1)
bat·​ten | \ ˈba-tᵊn How to pronounce batten (audio) \
battened; battening\ ˈbat-​niŋ How to pronounce batten (audio) , ˈba-​tᵊn-​iŋ \

Definition of batten

 (Entry 1 of 3)

intransitive verb

1a : to grow fat
b : to feed gluttonously
2 : to grow prosperous especially at the expense of another usually used with on



Definition of batten (Entry 2 of 3)

1a British : a piece of lumber used especially for flooring
b : a thin narrow strip of lumber used especially to seal or reinforce a joint
2 : a strip, bar, or support resembling or used similarly to a batten (as in a sail)


verb (2)
battened; battening\ ˈbat-​niŋ How to pronounce batten (audio) , ˈba-​tᵊn-​iŋ \

Definition of batten (Entry 3 of 3)

transitive verb

1 : to furnish with battens
2 : to fasten with or as if with battens often used with down

intransitive verb

: to make one secure by or as if by battens battening down for the hurricane
batten down the hatches
: to prepare for a difficult or dangerous situation

What Is the Origin of Batten

The origin of today's word is believed to be the Old Norse verb batna, meaning "to improve." Batna is akin to Old Norse betr and Old English betera, from which we get the modern English word better. Batten entered the English language in the 1500s, with the meaning "to improve," and was especially used in the sense of improving or thriving by feeding. It is not related to the verb batten (3batten) found in expressions such as "batten down the hatches." This latter batten comes from the noun batten, which denotes, among other things, an iron bar used to secure the covering of a hatchway on a ship. This batten has Latinate rather than Germanic origins and can be traced back through Anglo-French batre to the Latin verb battuere ("to beat").

First Known Use of batten

Verb (1)

circa 1540, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1a


1658, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Verb (2)

1663, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for batten

Verb (1)

probably from Old Norse batna to improve; akin to Old English betera better


alteration of Middle English batent, bataunt finished board, from Anglo-French *bataunt, from present participle of batre to beat, from Latin battuere

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The first known use of batten was circa 1540

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Cite this Entry

“Batten.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for batten



English Language Learners Definition of batten

: a long thin piece of wood that is used to connect and support other pieces of wood


bat·​ten | \ ˈba-tᵊn How to pronounce batten (audio) \
battened; battening

Kids Definition of batten

1 : to secure by or as if by fastening often used with down Everything on the ship's deck was battened down.
2 : to prepare for possible trouble or difficulty often used with down People battened down in preparation for winter.

More from Merriam-Webster on batten

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for batten

Nglish: Translation of batten for Spanish Speakers


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