adjective(in phrase with bated breath)
- Excited denizens have waited with bated breath as the clock ticked by - months, days, hours and finally the big moment itself.
- Football fans are looking forward with bated breath to the clash of Kerry and near neighbours Limerick in the national league semi final later in the month of April.
- As the 1000-odd crowd assembled at the spot watched with bated breath, the personnel started pulling the rope up with utmost care.
The spelling baited breath instead of bated breath is a common mistake. Almost a third of citations for this idiom in the Oxford English Corpus are for the incorrect spelling.
Late 16th century: from the past participle of obsolete bate 'restrain', from abate.
A shortened form of abated (Middle English), meaning ‘reduced, lessened’. The idea behind the phrase with bated breath is that the anxiety or excitement you experience while waiting for something to happen is so great that you almost stop breathing. The word is sometimes spelled baited, from a mistaken association with a fisherman's bait. It came from the Old French abattre ‘to fell’, from Latin ad ‘to, at’ and batt(u)ere ‘to beat’ which is also the source of abattoir, which to some extent replaced the medieval term slaughterhouse in the early 19th century.
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