Cleaner grammar: Bated breath vs. baited breath

One of the downsides of a language is it evolves, so we go through periods in which words become extinct and other ones arise to meet the new cultural climate. Such is the case with the word “bated,” which used to be a fairly common English word meaning “hold back or abate.”

Almost no one uses “bated” anymore. But we do use “baited,” which means to “annoy or taunt.”

So, do we wait with “bated breath,” meaning you’re holding your breath with anticipation, or do we wait with “baited breath,” meaning you’re annoying or taunting your breath with anticipation?

And now, what you’ve been waiting with bated breath (or is it “baited breath”?) for – drum roll please – it’s bated breath.

Since “bated” is going the way of the dodo bird, expect to see “baited breath” more frequently, even though that spelling is a bit nonsensical.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.