The verb 'to baste' can be misleading. OED (1885) lists four separate words, as well as two very rare nouns. All are pronounced to rhyme with 'placed', 'waste' and 'taste': IPA: /beɪst/. Contrariwise, the form bast (without final '-e'), of which there are four nouns and no verbs in OED (1885 and 1933), with a fifth noun in Esposito, 2003, is pronounced with an '-a-' like that in asterisk, astrology etc. (/bæst/).
- 'To baste' can mean:
- In needlework, 'to fasten pieces of cloth together with quick large stitches as a temporary hold to enable finished fine work to be done'. This is also called 'tacking', from the verb 'to tack'. Dressmakers, for example, may baste or tack a paper pattern to material preparatory to cutting the pieces of a garment out.
- Until at least the 17th century, 'to baste' was also 'to quilt', or 'to hold designed folds in a garment'. This technique was commonly used of doublets, etc.
- In cookery, 'to baste' is 'to pour melted fat or other liquid over an ingredient (usually a joint of meat being roasted) during cooking to keep it moist, and prevent its drying out or burning'.
- In informal English, 'to baste' meant 'to beat', 'to cudgel', 'to thrash'. (It is possible that this meaning is a slang development from the cookery term, with the idea of 'making it hot for [the victim]'; this is akin to another slang term 'to anoint', also defined as 'to beat soundly'. Both have existed since the 16th century.)
- The fourth verb is simply an archaic pronunciation of 'to beast': 'to treat like a beast', 'to bully'.
- The noun 'a baste' is one of
- a rare heraldic term, a corruption of 'base' meaning 'bottom [of the shield]'; or
- a corruption, reflecting the original pronunciation, of 'beast' - like the fourth verb above. (It also has a technical meaning in the old-fashioned card game of ombre.)
- Bast is, in all of its meanings, a non-count noun.
- In textiles, bast describes, as adjective or noun, long fibres obtained from what is now called phloem - the vascular (or tubular) cells that transport sap, and lie under the bark or outer skin of plants. Linen, hemp and jute are perhaps the best-known bast fibres, used for ropes, mats, sacking and other materials in modern Britain.
- In biology, the term bast was the standard word for what is now always called the phloem.
- Two meanings are no longer current: one obsolete, used until the 17th century for 'bastard' or 'bastardy' etc; and the other an "Erroneous form of bass n.1, a kind of fish" (OED).
- The Farsi (Persian) word bast has been adopted into English to label the Persian form of 'sanctuary' or 'asylum'. It is rare.
- In Islam, bast denotes a state of union with Allah experienced by seekers after the spirit, and accompanied by deep happiness: it is seen as a sign of God's acceptance. It is a concept best known to Sufis.