• clickbait •
Pronunciation: klik-bayt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)
Meaning: A web-page link designed to entice users to go to a certain web page that is often not what the link advertises.
Notes: This word is so new it has not had time to generate a family. We can easily imagine it being used as a verb, to clickbait, opening the door to clickbaiter and clickbaiting.
In Play: Clickbait often leads to slide shows or videos designed to keep you on the target page and raise the website's "stickiness" ranking, the average number of minutes visitors stay on a page: "The link was from a picture of a huge python, so I clicked on it and was led to a 21-picture slide show with the python in the 21st picture." Elsewhere clickbait is used to gather contact information: "When I clicked the link to a presumable news story, I was taken to a page where I had to sign in with my e-mail address."
Word History: This word is obviously a recent compound (first published appearance in 1999) comprising click and bait. Click comes from sound imitation. It is probably related to Old French clique "tick of a clock", Italian and Spanish clic, and Dutch klikken "to click". Who knows which came first. Bait is another matter. It was borrowed by the English from the Vikings, Old Norse beita "food, bait", related to English bite. These words derived from PIE bheid- "to split", which developed into Germanic words referring to biting. One of these words was borrowed by Italian and became pizza and by Greek, where it became pita. (Today's lexical tidbit was discovered by Chris Stewart, who thought I should send out the name for this bit of web trickery as a Good Word.)