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See also: Batten



Etymology 1[edit]

The verb is derived from Middle English *battenen, *batnen, of North Germanic origin, probably from Old Norse batna (to grow better, improve, recover),[1] from Proto-Germanic *batnaną (to become better, improve) (compare Old Norse bati (advantage, improvement), from Proto-Germanic *batô (improvement, recovery)),[2] from *bataz (good), from Proto-Indo-European *bʰed- (good). Compare battle ((adjective) improving; fattening, nutritious; fertile, fruitful; (verb) to feed or nourish; to render (land, etc.) fertile or fruitful) (obsolete).

The adjective is probably derived from the verb.[3]


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

  1. (transitive, obsolete)
    1. To cause (an animal, etc.) to become fat or thrive through plenteous feeding; to fatten.
      Synonyms: fleshen, stouten
    2. (rare) To enrich or fertilize (land, soil, etc.).
      • 1612 (indicated as 1611), John Speed, “Stafford-shire”, in The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine: Presenting an Exact Geography of the Kingdomes of England, Scotland, Ireland, and the Iles Adioyning: [][1], London: [] [William Hall] [] and are to be solde by Iohn Sudbury & Georg Humble, [], →OCLC, archived from the original on 2022-07-15, paragraph 6, page 69:
        [O]thers [i.e., rivers] ariſing and running thorovv this Shire, doe ſo batten the ground, that the Medovves euen in the midſt of VVinter grovv greene; []
  2. (intransitive)
    1. To become better; to improve in condition; especially of animals, by feeding; to fatten up. [from late 16th c.]
      Synonyms: fleshen, stouten
    2. Of land, soil, etc.: to become fertile; also, of plants: to grow lush.
    3. (often passive voice) Followed by on: to eat greedily; to glut.
    4. (figurative) Followed by on: to prosper or thrive, especially at the expense of others.
      Robber barons who battened on the poor
    5. (figurative) To gloat at; to revel in.
    6. (figurative) To gratify a morbid appetite or craving.
Derived terms[edit]


batten (comparative more batten, superlative most batten)

  1. (obsolete) Synonym of battle (of grass or pasture: nutritious to cattle or sheep; of land (originally pastureland) or soil: fertile, fruitful)
    (of land or soil): Synonym: (dialectal or obsolete) batful
    • 1627, John Speed, “Cornwall”, in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland Described and Abridged. [], London: [] Georg Humble [], →OCLC, signature [D6], verso, paragraph 3:
      The Soile for the moſt part is lifted vp into many hilles, parted aſunder vvith narrovv and ſhort vallies, and a ſhallovv earth doth couer their out-ſide, vvhich by a Sea-vveede called Orevvood, and a certaine kinde of fruitfull Sea-ſand, they make ſo ranke and batten, as is vncredible.

Etymology 2[edit]

The gaps between the wooden planks of this stabbur, or granary on stilts, in Løvøy in Steigen, Nordland, Norway, are covered with battens (the protruding strips; sense 1).
A batten (sense 2.1) holding the lighting equipment used to illuminate a theatre stage.
Battens (sense 2.2) which are inserted into pockets sewn on sails to keep them flat.

The noun is from Middle English bataunt, batent (finished bar or board (as for panelling)),[4] from Old French batent (a beating), a noun use of the present participle form of batre (to beat, hit, strike), from Late Latin battere, the present active infinitive of battō (to beat), from Latin battuō ((very rare) to beat, hit, strike);[5] further etymology uncertain, possibly from Proto-Indo-European *bʰedʰ-, *bʰedʰh₂- (to pierce; to stab) or *bʰat- (to hit), ultimately onomatopoeic.

The verb is derived from the noun.[6]


batten (plural battens)

  1. (carpentry, construction) A plank or strip of wood, or several of such strips arranged side by side, used in construction to hold members of a structure together, to provide a fixing point, to strengthen, or to prevent warping.
    Hyponyms: counterlath, (Australia) dropper, jackstay, studding
  2. (specifically)
    1. A strip of wood holding a number of lamps; especially (theater), one used for illuminating a stage; (by extension, also attributive) a long bar, usually metal, affixed to the ceiling or fly system and used to support curtains, scenery, etc.
    2. (nautical) A long, narrow strip, originally of wood but now also of fibreglass, metal, etc., used for various purposes aboard a ship; especially one attached to a mast or spar for protection, one holding down the edge of a tarpaulin covering a hatch to prevent water from entering the hatch, one inserted in a pocket sewn on a sail to keep it flat, or one from which a hammock is suspended.
      • 1840, R[ichard] H[enry] D[ana], Jr., chapter XXIX, in Two Years before the Mast. [] (Harper’s Family Library; no. CVI), New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers [], →OCLC, page 326:
        The next morning, we took the battens from the hatches, and opened the ship.
      • 1840, [Frederick] Marryat, “In which, Like Most People, who Tell Their Own Stories, I Begin with the Histories of Other People”, in Poor Jack. [], London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longmans, [], →OCLC, page 6:
        She was too sick to get out of bed, and he was not able to hoist her up without assistance; [] we were permitted to come in and hoist her ladyship up again to the battens.
      • 1972 September 1, “Basic Construction of Small Boats and Ships”, in Marine Crewman’s Handbook (Technical Manual; 55-501), Washington, D.C.: Headquarters, Department of the Army, →OCLC, section II (The Construction of Small Boats), page 12-3:
        In carvel construction, the planks which cover the sides of the vessel lie alongside one another without overlapping and the seams are calked. Where the construction is too light to admit calking, a narrow batten or ribband is run along the seams inside.
    3. (weaving) The movable bar of a loom, which strikes home or closes the threads of a woof.
Alternative forms[edit]
Derived terms[edit]


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

  1. To furnish (something) with battens (noun sense 1).
  2. (chiefly nautical) Chiefly followed by down: to fasten or secure (a hatch, opening, etc.) using battens (noun sense 2.2).
    Antonym: unbatten
Derived terms[edit]


  1. ^ batten2, v.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  2. ^ batten, v.1”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, September 2023.
  3. ^ † batten, adj.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, September 2023.
  4. ^ bataunt, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  5. ^ batten1, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022; compare batten, n.1”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, September 2023.
  6. ^ batten, v.2”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, September 2023; batten1, v.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

Further reading[edit]


Alternative forms[edit]


Debated. 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 (weak, third-person singular present battet, past tense battete, past participle gebattet, auxiliary haben)

  1. (obsolete, western Germany) to be useful, to be of use, to help
    Synonyms: nutzen, nützen