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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English *battenen, *batnen, of North Germanic origin, from Old Norse batna ‎(to grow better, improve, recover), from Proto-Germanic *batnaną ‎(to become good, get better), from Proto-Indo-European *bhAd- ‎(good). Cognate with Icelandic batna ‎(to improve, recover), Gothic 𐌲𐌰𐌱𐌰𐍄𐌽𐌰𐌽 ‎(gabatnan, to be noteful, profit, boot), Dutch baten ‎(to avail, profit, benefit), Old English batian ‎(to get better, recover). More at better.


batten ‎(third-person singular simple present battens, present participle battening, simple past and past participle battened)

  1. (intransitive) To become better; improve in condition, especially by feeding.
  2. (intransitive) To feed on; to revel in.
    • 1890, Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, ch. XIV:
      The brain had its own food on which it battened, and the imagination, made grotesque by terror, twisted and distorted as a living thing by pain, danced like some foul puppet on a stand and grinned through moving masks.
  3. (intransitive) To thrive by feeding; grow fat; feed oneself gluttonously.
    • Garth
      The pampered monarch lay battening in ease.
    • Emerson
      Skeptics, with a taste for carrion, who batten on the hideous facts in history []
  4. (intransitive) To thrive, prosper, or live in luxury, especially at the expense of others; fare sumptuously.
    Robber barons who battened on the poor
  5. (intransitive) To gratify a morbid appetite or craving; gloat.
  6. (transitive) To improve by feeding; fatten; make fat or cause to thrive due to plenteous feeding.
    • Milton
      battening our flocks
  7. (transitive) To fertilize or enrich, as land.
Derived terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English bataunt, batent ‎(finished board), from Old French batent ‎(beating)


batten ‎(plural battens)

  1. A thin strip of wood used in construction to hold members of a structure together or to provide a fixing point.
  2. (nautical) A long strip of wood, metal, fibreglass etc., used for various purposes aboard ship, especially one inserted in a pocket sewn on the sail in order to keep the sail flat.
  3. In stagecraft, a long pipe, usually metal, affixed to the ceiling or fly system in a theater.
  4. The movable bar of a loom, which strikes home or closes the threads of a woof.


batten ‎(third-person singular simple present battens, present participle battening, simple past and past participle battened)

  1. To furnish with battens.
  2. (nautical) To fasten or secure a hatch etc using battens.
Derived terms[edit]



  • FM 55-501 Marine Crewman’s Handbook


Alternative forms[edit]


Unsettled. A comparable form is synonymous Dutch baten, which pertains to the Germanic root at hand in English batten and better. At least a secondary relation with this Dutch verb seems certain. However, its regular cognate is Old High German bazzen ‎(to batten), which would have led to modern *bassen, bässen. Mere borrowing from Low German or Dutch is unlikely since the verb has -t- in western Upper German and a corresponding -d- in many dialects of West Central German. Possibly two distinct roots have been merged.


batten ‎(third-person singular simple present battet, past tense battete, past participle gebattet, auxiliary haben)

  1. (obsolete, western Germany) to be useful, to be of use, to help