Recently, I came across the expression "To follow one's bent," but I cannot find anything on the internet that explains what it means. Could someone shed some light on this expression, please?

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    It means to go with one's inclination. – deadrat Nov 21 '15 at 10:07
  • Did you try a dictionary? – Hot Licks Nov 21 '15 at 14:27
  • @HotLicks Obviously not – anonymous Nov 21 '15 at 17:44
  • The phrase "follow [one's] bent" is not treated as an idiom by any of the idiom dictionaries I consulted—but that surprises me somewhat, given that it didn't appear with any frequency until the mid-1800s and then rather quickly became a set phrase. The question of how it caught on as a set phrase might be an interesting one to investigate. – Sven Yargs Nov 21 '15 at 23:55

The relevant sense of bent is OED’s n2 6.b.:

Mental inclination or tendency; disposition; propensity, bias. The usual modern sense.

The two latest examples given suggest the term is especially used to refer to a disposition towards a certain line of work.

To go into that line of work towards which one has a bent would be to follow one’s bent. The expression could also refer to indulging any particular inclination or exercising a particular talent.

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To "follow your bent" means to follow your natural tendency. The term probably comes from woodworking. Often times a piece of wood with a particular shape was used for a specific purpose. The example of knees in shipbuilding is apt. If a shipbuilder used pieces that were naturally grown in the correct shape he was following the bend of the wood. Somebody that follows their natural inclination, aptitude or tendency could be said to be "following their bent" or bend.

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