Friday, March 29, 2013


batten [ˈbæt(ə)n] v. i.

1.) To grow better or improve in condition; especially (of animals) to improve in bodily condition by feeding, to feed to advantage, thrive, grow fat.
2.) To feed gluttonously on, glut oneself; to gloat or revel in. (With indirect passive, to be battened on, in modern writers.)
3.) fig. To thrive, grow fat, prosper (especially in a bad sense, at the expense or to the detriment of another); to gratify a morbid mental craving.
4.) To grow fertile (as soil); to grow rank (as a plant) (Oxford English Dictionary 2nd Edition).

Etymology: First found in end of 16th century, but may have been in dialectal use before; apparently adopted from Old Norse batna to improve, get better, recover, from bati, advantage, improvement, amelioration; cognate with Gothic gabatnan, to be advantaged, to be bettered, to profit, a neuter-passive form derived from batan, bôt, batans, to be useful, to profit, to boot. Cf. also Dutch baten, to avail, yield profit; baat, profit, gain, advantage, benefit; and see Grimm s.v. batten. A cognate bat in sense of 'profit, advantage, improvement,' although not known as a separate word in English, is implied in the derivatives batt-able, bat-ful, batt-le (a.).

"The Medical College piles up in its museum its grim monsters of morbid anatomy, and there are melancholy skeptics with a taste for carrion who batten on the hideous facts in history—persecutions, inquisitions, St. Bartholomew massacres, devilish lives, Nero, Caesar Borgia, Marat, Lopez; men in whom every ray of humanity was extinguished, parricides, matricides and whatever moral monsters. These are not cheerful facts, but they do not disturb a healthy mind; they require of us a patience as robust as the energy that attacks us, and an unresting exploration of final causes" (Society and Solitude, Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1870).

(Pochodnie Nerona, Henryk Siemiradzki, 1876)


Bibi said...

This word feels so familiar, I don't know how. Maybe I've read it before? Probably didn't understand what I was reading, then, because it means something different from what I thought it would

PeaceLoveandSharpies said...

Oooh ooh I actually knew this one from before :D

Ed @ Lexicolatry said...

I'm right on this word as I go through the OED! 'Batten' has loads of meanings, but this one was completely new to me.

MRanthrope said...

I've definitely grown fat over these past two weeks, i'd say it's more a case of fatten than batten though.

Ed @ Lexicolatry said...

Hola -E-! You've gone very quite quiet recently. I could use your academic input on today's post, 'bay', if you get a chance to have a squizz : o )

Post a Comment