Which is correct “Bated Breath” or “Baited Breath”?

A while ago I typed ‘bated breath‘ and was then overcome with niggles of self doubt. I thought to myself “it is ‘bated‘ not ‘baited‘, isn’t it?”.

To reassure myself I turned to Google, and yes it is ‘bated‘, from the virtually defunct word ‘abated‘ (to decrease in force or intensity : Merriam-Webster dictionary) and related to the modern English word ‘rebated‘.

During my search I did come across the following poem which correctly refers to ‘baited breath‘.

Cruel Clever Cat

Sally, having swallowed cheese,

Directs down holes the scented breeze,

Enticing thus with baited breath

Nice mice to an untimely death.

Written by Geoffrey Taylor and first published in ‘A Dash of Garlic’ in 1933

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