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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    • Two meanings are no longer current: one obsolete, used until the 17th century for 'bastard' or 'bastardy' etc; and the other an "Erroneous form of bass n.1, a kind of fish" (OED).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.