I. noun 1. [ mass noun] — food placed on a hook or in a net, trap, or fishing area to entice fish or other animals as prey. • herrings make excellent bait for pike.
• [ count noun]
fishing with live baits.
2. something intended to entice someone to do something • many potential buyers are reluctant to take the bait.
3. variant spelling of bate1. II. verb — [with obj.] 1. deliberately annoy or taunt (someone) • the other boys revelled in baiting him about his love of literature.
2. cause dogs to attack (a trapped or restrained animal). • people who bait badgers.
3. put bait on (a hook) or in (a trap, net, or fishing area) to entice fish or animals • I used a hook baited with fat.
III. phrases 1. fish or cut bait
‹informal› stop vacillating and decide to act on or disengage from something.
• when it comes to flagging brands, companies are being forced to fish or cut bait.
2. rise to the bait react to a provocation or temptation exactly as intended. • Jenny was being provocatively rude, but he never rose to the bait.
IV. derivatives baiter noun
– origin Middle English: from Old Norse beit ‘pasture, food’, beita ‘to hunt or chase’.