Teaching Grammar with Bait

Bate: to beat the wings wildly or impatiently in an attempt to fly off a perch or a falconer’s fist when still attached by a leash

Bait: a piece of food used as a lure in fishing or trapping

I do so love a homonym I didn’t know existed. Who knew the action of a poor leashed falcon would merit its own word. Then as often happens after I get digging into the word I realize that I have indeed used this word—by its alternate meaning: with bated breath. Because bate also
means to restrain, to lessen or diminish. So I found it slightly odd that when I used Word to look up the word the first and only definition was the falcon one. Curious.

bate 1. to moderate or restrain: unable to bate our enthusiasm.

2. to lessen or diminish; abate: setbacks that bated his hopes.

3. to diminish or subside; abate.


1250–1300; Middle English, aphetic variant of abate; baten to beat, flap (wings, etc.) < Middle French ( se ) batre ≪ Latin battuere to beat; cf. abate

I suppose my point with this particular homonym is that there is so much more to it than first meets the eye. Like bated, abate, batten, variations all. Which is why this is a great word with which teachers of English, grammar, and writing can challenge your students. Discuss. Then write about it.