Wednesday, May 15, 2013

With Bated Breath



Brian from Interlochen came across the phrase with bated breath and wondered what it meant and where it came from.

The first thing to note is that the spelling is b-a-t-e-d, not b-a-i-t-e-d. A person with baited breath would have been eating worms or minnows.

Bated in this sense amounts to “held breath.” It goes back to Old French and Anglo-Norman words that meant to reduce, decrease, or beat back. Bated breath occurs when someone is shocked, terrified, or otherwise stunned into breathlessness.

Abate and rebate are allied words.

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