Wordy Wednesday: “Bated Breath”

Bet you’ve been waiting with bated breath for this week’s Wordy Wednesday! But what does that mean, exactly?

The earliest evidence of the phrase “bated breath” comes from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice:


What should I say to you? Should I not say

‘Hath a dog money? is it possible

A cur can lend three thousand ducats?’ Or

Shall I bend low and in a bondman’s key,

With bated breath and whispering humbleness, Say this;

‘Fair sir, you spit on me on Wednesday last;

You spurn’d me such a day; another time

You call’d me dog; and for these courtesies

I’ll lend you thus much moneys’?

Despite common confusion, bated breath has nothing to do with bait; “bated” is actually a contraction of “abated”, which means lessened or subdued. So “bated breath” is breathing that is reduced or stopped (because of a strong emotion). When you are “waiting with bated breath”, you are waiting anxiously or eagerly for something.

Is there something you’re waiting for with bated breath? Let us know in the comments!

– Written by Lisa


“With Bated Breath.” Wiktionary. Wikimedia Foundation, 31 Aug. 2012. Web. 12 Oct.

2012. <http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/with_bated_breath&gt;.

“Bated.” Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press, 2012. Web. 12 Oct. 2012.


Martin, Gary. “Bated Breath.” The Phrase Finder. 2012. Web. 12 Oct. 2012.


Quinion, Michael. “Bated Breath.” World Wide Words. 21 June 2003. Web. 12 Oct.

2012. <http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-bai1.htm&gt;.

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