Bat an Eye: Definition, Meaning and Origin

Last Updated on
June 4, 2023

The phrase "bat an eye" means a lack of reaction or indifference to a particular situation. It is frequently used in scenarios where a surprising, shocking, or impressive event occurs, and a person shows no sign of surprise, shock, or awe.

In short:

  • "Bat an eye" means to not show any emotional reaction, such as surprise, interest, or disapproval.

What Does "Bat an Eye" Mean?

The phrase conveys a lack of response or an expression of indifference towards an event or statement. It suggests that an individual is unperturbed or unaffected.

Let's dive into its core meanings and related expressions:

  • It signifies a lack of surprise or shock in response to an event or statement.
  • It suggests that someone is unfazed or unaffected by something that would ordinarily be surprising or impressive.
  • It could also imply a level of tolerance or acceptance towards something unexpected or controversial.

Where Does "Bat an Eye" Come From?

The phrase originates from the physical act of blinking or batting one's eyes as a reaction to surprise or shock. The saying, therefore, draws a picture of someone so unperturbed or indifferent that they don't even blink—an involuntary action in response to surprise.

Historical Example

"You don't bat an eye, but yawn, perhaps, and saunter into an obscure place where you set your trap for the next victim."

- Photo-Era Magazine, the American Journal of Photography, 1913

10 Examples of "Bat an Eye" in Sentences

Here are some examples of using the idiom in sentences:

  • They repoed his car, but Marco didn't even bat an eye.
  • Despite the startling revelation, the judge didn't bat an eye.
  • She did not bat an eye when he confessed his wrongdoings.
  • Despite the gnarly challenges I faced, I didn't bat an eye and tackled them head-on with determination.
  • When he saw the enormous bill, he didn't bat an eye before paying it.
  • When the one who got away returned, I didn't bat an eye as I had already moved on.
  • The teacher didn't bat an eye when the student's phone rang in class.
  • Through all the trials and tribulations, my mother didn't bat an eye and persevered through it all.
  • She didn't bat an eye when her name was announced for the award.
  • He cracked a lame joke, but the speaker didn't bat an eye and continued with the conversation.

Examples of "Bat an Eye" in Pop Culture

The phrase "bat an eye" often appears in various forms of media to denote a character's lack of reaction or indifference.

Let's look at some examples:

  • In the TV movie The Day After (1983), Dr. Russel Oakes tells Helen Oakes, "Full retaliatory response. He didn't bat an eye."
  • A quote from the book Eye of the Rainbow Serpent by Don Hoult: "It was obvious to everyone it had to be more than platonic, but Constance didn't bat an eye."
  • A quote from the book June: A Novel by Miranda Beverly-Whitemore: "The tall man who seated them didn't bat an eye, but June supposed men like this were paid not to bat an eye."

Other/Different Ways to Say "Bat an Eye"

There are several alternative expressions that convey a similar meaning to "bat an eye."

Some of these include:

  • Didn't flinch
  • Showed no reaction
  • Remained unperturbed
  • Remained unfazed
  • Showed no surprise

These alternatives can be used interchangeably depending on the context and the level of indifference or lack of surprise being conveyed.

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Bat an Eye":

  • What does "bat an eye" mean?

"Bat an eye" refers to the act of showing no reaction or expressing indifference towards an event or statement that would typically elicit surprise or shock.

  • How can I use "bat an eye" in a sentence?

You can use "bat an eye" to express a lack of surprise, interest, or disapproval. For example, "Despite the shocking news, he didn't bat an eye."

  • Where does the idiom "bat an eye" come from?

The phrase comes from the physical act of blinking or batting one's eyes as a reaction to surprise or shock.

  • Does "bat an eye" mean someone is cold-hearted?

No, not necessarily. It just means that the person showed no outward reaction. It does not speak to their emotional state or character.

  • Is it disrespectful to not "bat an eye" in certain situations?

It depends on the context. In some situations, showing no reaction might be seen as a lack of empathy or interest.

  • Can "bat an eye" be considered a sign of strength?

In certain circumstances, it could be perceived as a sign of emotional strength or control.

  • Can you use "bat an eye" in a positive situation?

Yes, it could be used in a positive situation, for instance, if someone received a gift and didn't bat an eye, indicating they were not swayed by material things.

  • Does "bat an eye" indicate a lack of surprise only?

Not solely. While it often implies a lack of surprise, it can also indicate a lack of reaction or indifference in general.

  • Can one use the phrase to depict stoicism?

Yes, it could be used to describe a stoic reaction to a situation.

  • Can "bat an eye" be used in literary contexts?

Yes, "bat an eye" is frequently used in literary contexts to describe a character's non-reaction to surprising or shocking events.

Final Thoughts About "Bat an Eye"

The idiom "bat an eye" is an expression used to denote indifference, lack of surprise, or a lack of reaction to an event or information that would typically elicit a response.

Here's a quick recap:

  • It refers to a lack of reaction or indifference to something surprising or shocking.
  • It originates from the literal act of blinking or batting the eyes as a response to surprise or shock.
  • It can be used in various contexts, demonstrating its versatility and widespread application.

The use of "bat an eye" is a subtle way to express a character's emotional strength, indifference, or lack of surprise. Whether it's in storytelling or everyday communication, it adds a layer of depth to character depiction and dialogue.

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