We are all no doubt familiar with the phrase "with bated breath," but is it ever used in other contexts?

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    the bated wage ...
    – GEdgar
    Jul 2, 2012 at 1:30
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    Something something dirty joke about the guy in charge. Jul 2, 2012 at 1:44
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    Maybe there is more contemporary use through its cousin "abate". Abate thy speed and I will bate of mine. Dryden. Otherwise the sense is mostly beat, like birds' wings and dancers' feet, All plumed like estridges that with the wind / Bated Henry IV:pt 1.
    – jitard
    Jul 2, 2012 at 3:45
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    Why did I never see it spelled like this? I've -always- seen baited breath...
    – SF.
    Sep 2, 2012 at 13:44
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    @SF: Your version comes from an old pun: the cat ate cheese so he could wait by the mouse hole with baited breath.
    – cobaltduck
    Nov 30, 2015 at 16:42

2 Answers 2


Yes. Aside from its meaning within the idiom "with bated breath," bate as a verb can mean 1) to moderate or restrain, or 2) to lessen or diminish, among other definitions.

To give an example, as you can see in this dictionary entry, one can have bated sentiments such as bated enthusiasm or bated hopes:

An example sentence here would be "After waiting two and a half hours in line for the Empire State Building observatory, we finally trudged into the elevator with bated enthusiasm."

It would seem that many things can be "bated," so long as it makes sense for it to be moderated, restrained, lessened, or diminished. There is even a proverb that goes "In the report of riches and goodness always bate one half."

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    It is however exceedingly rare other than with breath.
    – Colin Fine
    Jul 2, 2012 at 10:03

In historic England (a long time ago) there was a form of entertainment called bull or bear bating. This was were a pack of dogs were set to attack a bull or bear, it was said then that a certain bull etc, was 'bated'.

From this came the English expression to 'bate' someone, that is for a group of people to deliberately annoy someone, as the dogs did in bull or bear bating.

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    That word is bait and not bate; bait has Germanic roots, and bate is akin to abate, which has Latin roots. And deliberately annoying somebody is not even close to what bated breath actually means. Sep 21, 2012 at 15:10
  • Yes, seems your right. Will take more care with spelling in future...
    – john
    Sep 21, 2012 at 16:19
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    @john "your right"? Seems you should take more care with spelling, indeed!
    – Tuesday
    Sep 23, 2012 at 15:16
  • @john trolls well methinks
    – Randy L
    Apr 25, 2014 at 20:32

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