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Bated breath


the condition of waiting for something to happen; subdued breathing due to high emotions

With bated breath, they went to the mailbox every day.
Word Origin

1933; based on bate meaning ‘to moderate, restrain’
Contemporary Examples

We all may have waited with bated breath for Wiig’s big, first post-Bridesmaids, post-SNL star vehicle.
Is Kristen Wiig Still ‘Girl Most Likely’ to Succeed? Kevin Fallon July 21, 2013

Throughout Christmas eve and day, the world is monitoring with bated breath.
Sweden’s Burning Christmas Goat Nina Strochlic December 24, 2014

Hawking took 10 minutes to build up the answer on his computer and the audience waited with bated breath.
Richard Dawkins: How I Write Noah Charney November 26, 2013

Historical Examples

With bated breath and throbbing heart I watched his slow progress across the open country.
Cruisings in the Cascades George O. Shields

The first words which he said were spoken sacredly, with bated breath.
Murder Point Coningsby Dawson

The very postman and tradesmen only approach it with bated breath.
Jonathan and His Continent Max O’Rell

Dorothy listened with bated breath, then turned quickly to Katy.
Pretty Madcap Dorothy Laura Jean Libbey

And with bated breath they let the dead cart rumble by with its ghastly burden.
Faithful Margaret Annie Ashmore

To flee was impossible, so with bated breath he stood his ground.
The Boy Land Boomer Ralph Bonehill

I was kneeling by Jack, and was not intended to hear what all were too hot and excited to guard by bated breath.
Hugh Wynne, Free Quaker S. Weir Mitchell


see bate (v.1).


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  • Bateleur

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  • Bates

    Katherine Lee, 1859–1929, U.S. educator and author. to moderate or restrain: unable to bate our enthusiasm. to lessen or diminish; abate: setbacks that bated his hopes. to diminish or subside; abate. with bated breath, with breath drawn in or held because of anticipation or suspense: We watched with bated breath as the runners approached the […]

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