bated breath

bated breath

- The expression is based on bate, meaning "to moderate, restrain" or "to lessen, diminish"; though bated was once rather common, it is now rare except in this set expression.
See also related terms for lessen.
References in classic literature ?
and he stopped to listen with bated breath to the wind rustling in the elm-trees, fancying he could bear that same passionate cry ringing still in his ears - the cry of an old man parted from his kin and waiting for death in a lonely land.
They look upon us as amateurs and speak of Scotland Yard with bated breath.
Yes, a dangerous matter -- so dangerous that even the most saintly dared only whisper their religious opinions with bated breath, lest something which fell from their lips might be misconstrued, and bring down a swift retribution upon them.
At this all stopped and listened with bated breath, albeit for a time they could hear nothing, their ears being duller than Stutely's.
She took it, however, with bated breath, swinging from her strong little arms, and landing on all fours in the soft grass.
The men, listening with bated breath, now turned their curious eyes upon the colonel.
Tom began -- hesitatingly at first, but as he warmed to his subject his words flowed more and more easily; in a little while every sound ceased but his own voice; every eye fixed itself upon him; with parted lips and bated breath the audience hung upon his words, taking no note of time, rapt in the ghastly fascinations of the tale.
With bated breath and beating heart he moved toward the Rhetor (by which name the brother who prepared a seeker for entrance into the Brotherhood was known).
With bated breath she groped beneath the little mound, scarce daring to hope that the treasure remained where she had left it; but, to her infinite relief and joy, her hand came at once upon the barrel of the heavy weapon and then upon the bandoleer of cartridges.
They had spoken only in bated breath, but the door of the room before which they were standing was suddenly opened.
Yet he had picked up gossip enough to have it occur to him that the loud-voiced man upon the bench might be the notorious Justice Callahan, about whom the people of Packingtown spoke with bated breath.
It is even true," said the wheelwright, with bated breath.