Twice lately, I have been pulled right out of a story I was reading by the phrase “baited breath,” and I realized this is a mistake far too many people are making. One does not have “baited breath” unless one has been eating worms or shiners. Honest.
The correct word in this case is “bated,” as in “abated” meaning something that has ceased happening. Like breathing. In other words, the phrase “bated breath” means someone is holding his breath, whereas to say “baited breath” implies someone has very odd dining habits.
The Serious Example:
The accused murderer awaited the jury’s verdict with bated breath. (He was holding his breath).
The Silly example:
The cat ate every shiner in the pail, ending up with baited breath. (The cat now smells fishy.)
Hope this helps sort out the difference between bated and baited. (But I’m not holding my breath here. 😀 )