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
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