1 a : to grow or make fat
b : to feed gluttonously
2 : to grow prosperous especially at the expense of another -- usually used with on
Did You Know?
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 late 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" 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").
There have always been unscrupulous individuals who batten on the misfortunes of others.
"At the same time, others who had battened on the business of originating mortgages --thousands of small-time mortgage brokers -- went out of business." -- From Nouriel Roubini and Stephen Mihm's 2010 book Crisis Economics: A Crash Course in the Future of Finance
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