from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • intransitive v. To become fat.
  • intransitive v. To thrive and prosper, especially at another's expense: "[She] battens like a leech on the lives of famous people, . . . a professional retailer of falsehoods” ( George F. Will).
  • transitive v. To fatten; overfeed.
  • n. Nautical One of several flexible strips of wood or plastic placed in pockets at the outer edge of a sail to keep it flat.
  • n. Nautical A narrow strip of wood used to fasten down the edges of the material that covers hatches in foul weather.
  • n. Chiefly British A narrow strip of wood used especially for flooring.
  • transitive v. Nautical To furnish, fasten, or secure with battens: battened down the hatch during the storm.
  • idiom batten down the hatches To prepare for an imminent disaster or emergency.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A thin strip of wood used in construction to hold members of a structure together or to provide a fixing point.
  • n. 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.
  • n. In stagecraft, a long pipe, usually metal, affixed to the ceiling or fly system in a theater.
  • n. The movable bar of a loom, which strikes home or closes the threads of a woof.
  • v. To furnish with battens.
  • v. To fasten or secure a hatch etc using battens.
  • v. To become better; improve in condition, especially by feeding.
  • v. To feed on; to revel in.
  • v. To thrive by feeding; grow fat; feed oneself gluttonously.
  • v. To thrive, prosper, or live in luxury, especially at the expense of others; fare sumptuously.
  • v. To gratify a morbid appetite or craving; gloat.
  • v. To improve by feeding; fatten; make fat or cause to thrive due to plenteous feeding.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Sawed timbers about 7 by 2 1/2 inches and not less than 6 feet long.
  • n. A strip of wood used in fastening the edges of a tarpaulin to the deck, also around masts to prevent chafing.
  • n. A long, thin strip used to strengthen a part, to cover a crack, etc.
  • n. The movable bar of a loom, which strikes home or closes the threads of a woof.
  • intransitive v. To grow fat; to grow fat in ease and luxury; to glut one's self.
  • transitive v. To make fat by plenteous feeding; to fatten.
  • transitive v. To fertilize or enrich, as land.
  • transitive v. To furnish or fasten with battens.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To become better; improve in condition (especially by feeding); grow fat; thrive.
  • To feed gluttonously; figuratively, gratify a morbid appetite or craving; gloat: absolutely, or with on or upon.
  • Figuratively, to thrive; prosper; live in ease and luxury, especially at the expense or to the detriment of others: with on, formerly also with: as, to batten on ill-gotten gains.
  • To improve by feeding; fatten; make fat or cause to thrive with plenteous feeding.
  • To fertilize or enrich (the soil).
  • To form or fasten with battens.
  • n. A Strip or scantling of wood.
  • n. In com., squared timber of 6 or more feet in length, 7 inches in width, and 2½ inches in thickness, used in carpentry and housebuilding for various purposes. Pieces less than 6 feet long are known as batten-ends.
  • n. In weaving, the beam for striking the weft home; a lathe.
  • n. A log less than 11 inches in diameter at the small end.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. furnish with battens
  • n. a strip fixed to something to hold it firm
  • n. stuffing made of rolls or sheets of cotton wool or synthetic fiber
  • v. secure with battens


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Ultimately from Old Norse batna, to improve; see bhad- in Indo-European roots.
Middle English batent, from Old French bataunt, wooden strip, clapper, from present participle of batre, to beat; see batter1.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English *battenen, *batnen, of North Germanic origin, from Old Norse batna ("to grow better, improve, recover"), from Proto-Germanic *batnanan (“to become good, get better”), from Proto-Indo-European *bhAd- (“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.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English  (bataunt, batent, "finished board"), from Old French  (batent, "to beat")


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  • So, instead, I rigged up an extender that connects a standard "batten" bulb socket to the oyster-light socket.

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  • So call it what you will, the labels don't matter, but batten down yer hatches if you have a lick o 'sense.

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  • (verb) - (1) To fatten, or grow fat. In Sternberg's Folk Lore and Glossary of Northamptonshire 1851, the local phrase is quoted, "Them pigs batten in the sun."

    --Charles Mackay's Lost Beauties of the English Language, 1874

    (2) Fattening and battening, a toast of a child's fattening and thriving given at its baptism in private, when the bread, cheese and whisky are partaken of.

    --Alexander Warrack's Scots Dialect Dictionary, 1911

    January 16, 2018

  • I had no recollection of having looked this word up before, but apparently I did! Yet again I encountered it in the sense of "fatten" and was surprised. In The Captive by Proust: "Then, like a famished convalescent already battening upon all the dishes that are still forbidden him ..."

    December 25, 2009

  • I've never heard it before either, knitandpurl. Interesting!

    August 10, 2007

  • That's bizarre. I've never heard it in the sense before. I think it is archaic or obsolete or just absurd.

    August 10, 2007

  • I knew batten in the sense of "batten down the hatches" but not in the sense of, as puts it, "to grow prosperous especially at the expense of another."

    August 10, 2007

  • batten its hard to find a better word

    January 16, 2007