If you wanted to say that Sophia is holding her breath in suspense, what would you write? Would you write that Sophia is waiting “with baited breath”? Or would you write that she is waiting “with bated breath”? We’ll solve the puzzle in this post by breaking down the difference between baited vs. bated.
Baited vs. bated are indeed different words
Of the two words, baited may seem more familiar to you because it contains the word bait (as in the worm you attach to a fishing hook). We use baited when we want to describe using food to lure an animal to an area. You would use this definition of baited in sentences like these:
- “We baited the fishing hook.”
- “They baited the mouse trap with cheese.”
- “Micah baited the fishing nets.”
Notice how we said “this definition” in the last sentence? That’s because we also use baited when we want to say that someone harassed or pestered someone with criticism. For example, you would use this definition of baited like this:
- “The reporter baited the politician by repeatedly asking him about the scandal.”
- “Casey baited her brother to the point where he walked out of her house.”
- “Leila baited Michel until he couldn’t take it anymore.”
When you’re thinking about the difference between baited vs. bated, remember that baited describes luring an animal with food or pestering someone with insults. In either case, someone has “attacked” something or someone else.
So now you know what baited means. But what about bated?
You might recognize bated from your high school English days (that is, if you were paying attention in class). Shakespeare used bated in a scene in The Merchant of Venice. In fact, this is the earliest recorded use of the word. (So if you don’t like the word, blame Shakespeare!)
Bated describes something that has been diminished or reduced. So when you’re doing something with bated breath, it means that you’re so anxious about something that you’re almost holding your breath. Here’s how you would use the word in a sentence:
- “She checked her email with bated breath.”
- “He opened the letter from the admissions office with bated breath.”
- “They sat in the stands with bated breath and waited for the time on the clock to run out.”
When you’re thinking about the difference between baited vs. bated, remember that bated means diminished or reduced.
How to remember the difference between baited vs. bated
Baited vs. bated are easy to confuse. So how can you keep them straight? Remember that baited contains the word bait and involves using metaphorical or literal bait to “attack” someone or something. When you’re waiting with bated breath, you’re not attacking someone or being attacked by anything (except your own anxiety). So you wouldn’t say that you’re waiting with baited breath.
Baited vs. bated look similar, but they mean very different things. Use baited to describe using “bait” to attack someone or something. And use bated to describe something that’s been diminished or reduced.
Would you use diffuse or defuse in this sentence: “She has been experiencing ____ pain in her back since the accident”? We’ve got the answer in our post on the difference between diffuse vs. defuse.