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See also: Batten



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 *bʰed- (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, figuratively) To feed (on); to revel (in).
    • 1891, Oscar Wilde, chapter XIV, in The Picture of Dorian Gray, London; New York, N.Y.; Melbourne, Vic.: Ward Lock & Co., OCLC 34363729:
      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.
    • 1699, Samuel Garth, The Dispensary
      The pampered monarch lay battening in ease.
    • 1870, Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Courage”, in Society and Solitude. Twelve Chapters, Boston, Mass.: Fields, Osgood, & Co., OCLC 926043624, page 247:
      [T]here are sceptics with a taste for carrion who batten on the hideous facts in history, – persecutions, inquisitions, St. Bartholomew massacres, devilish lives, Nero, Cæsar, Borgia, Marat, Lopez, – men in whom every ray of humanity was extinguished, parricides, matricides, and whatever moral monsters.
  4. (intransitive) To thrive, prosper, or live in luxury, especially at the expense of others; fare sumptuously.
    Robber barons who battened on the poor
    • 2015 by Gerard Menuhin in "Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil"
      The densest webs are in Tel Aviv and New York. It is from there, via their venal henchmen in Washington, London, Berlin, etc. that the fattest spiders batten on the misery of a large part of the world's population.
  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.
  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. (theater) 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.

Derived terms[edit]


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]


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