bat one’s eyes: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘bat one's eyes’ mean?

The idiom "bat one's eyes" means to flutter or blink one's eyelashes in a flirtatious or seductive manner.

Idiom Explorer

Flirtatious Gestures

The idiom "bat one's eyes" is a commonly used phrase that refers to fluttering or blinking one's eyelashes in a flirtatious or suggestive manner. It is often employed to describe someone's attempt to attract attention or gain favor, especially in a romantic or seductive context.

The exact origin of this idiom is uncertain, but it can be traced back to the early 20th century. Regardless of its specific origins, it has become a widely recognized expression in the English language.

The phrase "bat one's eyes" draws a comparison between the action of fluttering eyelashes and the motion of a bat flapping its wings. This comparison forms the basis for the figurative meaning of the idiom.

When someone "bats their eyes," it is often seen as a coquettish or coy gesture intended to captivate another person's attention. This action is typically performed with the aim of creating intrigue or attraction and is commonly associated with femininity.

This idiom is predominantly used in informal or everyday conversations rather than in formal or professional settings. It is frequently employed in discussions about relationships, romance, or flirting.

Her coquettish eyelashes seduced him with a flirtatious gesture.

While the idiom generally carries a positive connotation of charm and appeal, it can also be used in a negative or critical sense to suggest insincerity or manipulation. In such cases, it implies that someone is using their charm or attractiveness to deceive or manipulate others.

There are several related idioms that share a similar theme with "bat one's eyes."

"bat an eyelid" is an idiom that conveys the idea of displaying a lack of surprise or reaction to a situation. It suggests remaining calm or composed despite being presented with something unexpected or shocking. For example, one might say "He didn't bat an eyelid when he found out about the surprise party."

"give someone the eye" is another related idiom that means to look at someone with a seductive or interested expression. It is often used to indicate that someone is expressing romantic or sexual attraction. For instance, someone might say "She gave him the eye from across the room."

"lay eyes on" is yet another related idiom that expresses the act of seeing someone or something for the first time. It often conveys a sense of interest, surprise, or admiration. For example, "I couldn't wait to lay eyes on the new artwork."

"have bats in one's belfry" is a final related idiom that refers to someone being mentally unstable or eccentric. It suggests that the person's thoughts or behavior are strange or irrational, similar to the erratic flight of bats in a bell tower. For example, one might say "She must have bats in her belfry to believe such a wild conspiracy theory."

The idiom "bat one's eyes" remains a widely recognized and understood expression in contemporary English. It continues to be used in conversations about romantic or seductive actions, reminding us of the complexities of human interaction and the power of nonverbal communication.

Example usage


1. She bat her eyes at the handsome stranger across the room, hoping to catch his attention.

2. The actress would often bat her eyes and pout to get what she wanted from the director.

3. He couldn't resist her; she would bat her eyes and playfully tease him, and he would do anything she asked.

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