‘Bat an Eye’: Definition, Meaning, and Examples

By Amy Gilmore, updated on November 10, 2022

You have probably heard the phrase, ‘bat an eye,’ but you may not know what it means. Usually, when people say this, they mean that someone did not ‘bat an eye’ which means to show no interest, surprise, or reaction. To actually ‘bat an eye’ means to blink. 

However, this idiom is a bit confusing because ‘bat an eyelash’ has a very different meaning. To learn more, read this guide. It contains definitions, meanings, examples of both, and helpful tips for successfully utilizing these phrases and others to connect with your audience. 

What Does ‘Bat an Eye’ Mean? 

The most popular usage of this phrase is to precede it with ‘did not.’ To ‘bat an eye’ at something would be to give it a slight reaction. However, to say someone ‘didn’t bat an eye' means that they showed no reacti0n. 

Definition of ‘Bat’ 

In the context of this figure of speech, the definition of ‘bat’ is to flutter or blink. ‘Bat’ is a term that originated in the 15th century when falconry was common. It was used to describe the flapping of the falcon's wings. 

Here are a few examples: 

  • The birds ‘bat’ their wings with grace. 
  • Did you see the falcons ‘bat’ their wings as they flew?

‘Bat an Eye’ Origin 

The term has been around for centuries. Hunters who used falcons started the statement during the 16th century. They would use the statement to tell someone to blink. 

Over time, the saying evolved, and today people most frequently use the idiom to insinuate that an individual showed no reaction when bad news was delivered to them. This is not uncommon. Figures of speech often change depending on what is happening in the world. 

Definition of ‘Bat an Eyelash’ 

‘Bat an eyelash’ is another popular saying. It means to flirt with someone. Here are a few examples: 

  • John couldn’t resist when Susan ‘batted her eyelashes.’
  • If you want to get your way, just ‘bat your eyelashes.’ He will give you anything you want. 
  • Janet was the apple of her father’s eye. All she had to do to get her way was ‘bat an eyelash.’
  • The girls ‘batted their eyelashes’ as the boys passed. 

Examples of ‘Bat an Eye’

Now that you know the meaning of ‘bat an eyelash,’ read through these to see the difference. 


  • We told her the news, and she did not even ‘bat an eye.’
  • Did she even ‘bat an eye' when you told her you won the contest? 
  • How many times do you have to see that he doesn’t even ‘bat an eye’ at the stories you tell?
  • Try not to ‘bat an eye,' or the kidnappers will know you are scared. 
  • The criminal tried not to ‘bat an eye’ when the detective indicated that he was a suspect in the murder investigation, but he was visibly shaken by the possibility of facing a lengthy prison sentence. 

Tips for Using Idioms

Idioms like ‘rooting for you,’ ‘bat an eyelash,’ ‘shoot your shot,’ and ‘bearer of bad news’ can help you connect with your audience. However, you must use figures of speech appropriate for your content. 

For example, if you are writing like Earnest Hemingway, you may want to use a figure of speech he used or would have used. However, using it in the wrong context will diminish the value of your work. 

Here are a few other tips for using idioms:

  1. Do not use too many idioms. 
  2. Ensure that you use figures of speech in the correct context. 
  3. Use terms your audience understands. 
  4. Look up the meaning of an idiom before you use it if you are unsure of the definition. 
  5. Bookmark writingtips.org for a quick resource to verify the meaning of dozens of sayings.  

Final Thoughts on ‘Bat an Eye’

Remember, ‘bat an eye’ and ‘bat an eyelid’ have different meanings. To ‘bat an eye’ means to blink, while ‘batting your eyelashes’ is a term for flirting. 

You could use either to imply that someone didn’t care, but saying someone didn’t ‘bat an eyelash’ at bad news sounds silly. Knowing how to properly use a figure of speech before you use it is essential. Otherwise, you risk losing the respect of your audience or even offending them. 

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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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