bated breath

Ever wondered where this phrase comes from?

Bated breath

This phrase refers to breath that is held due to some difficulty or extreme of emotion. ‘He waited with bated breath.’ It most likely has its origin in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice: ‘Shall I bend low and in a bondman’s key, with bated breath and whisp’ring humbleness’. There it is probably shortened ‘abated’ – thus the breath is decreased or held.