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[boo l-it] /ˈbʊl ɪt/
a small metal projectile, part of a cartridge, for firing from small arms.
a cartridge.
a small ball.
Printing. a heavy dot for marking paragraphs or otherwise calling attention to or itemizing particular sections of text, especially in display advertising.
Cards. an ace.
verb (used without object), bulleted, bulleting.
to move swiftly.
bite the bullet, to force oneself to perform a painful, difficult task or to endure an unpleasant situation:
We'll just have to bite the bullet and pay higher taxes.
Origin of bullet
1550-60; < Middle French boullette, equivalent to boulle ball (see bowl2) + -ette -ette
Related forms
bulletless, adjective
bulletlike, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for bite the bullet


  1. a small metallic missile enclosed in a cartridge, used as the projectile of a gun, rifle, etc
  2. the entire cartridge
something resembling a bullet, esp in shape or effect
(stock exchange) a fixed interest security with a single maturity date
(commerce) a security that offers a fixed interest and matures on a fixed date
  1. the final repayment of a loan that repays the whole of the sum borrowed, as interim payments have been for interest only
  2. (as modifier): a bullet loan
(Brit, slang) dismissal, sometimes without notice (esp in the phrases get or give the bullet)
(printing) See centred dot
bite the bullet, See bite (sense 14)
Derived Forms
bullet-like, adjective
Word Origin
C16: from French boulette, diminutive of boule ball; see bowl²
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for bite the bullet



1550s, from Middle French boulette "cannonball, small ball," diminutive of boule "a ball" (13c.), from Latin bulla "round thing, knob" (see bull (n.2)). Earliest version of bite the bullet recorded 1891, probably with a sense of giving someone a soft lead bullet to clench in the teeth during a painful operation.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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bite the bullet in Culture

bite the bullet definition

To adjust to unpleasant circumstances: “The severe drought is forcing everybody to bite the bullet and use less water.” Before anesthesia, people undergoing surgery would bite on a bullet to help them withstand the pain.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for bite the bullet

bite the bullet

verb phrase

To accept the cost of a course of action; do something painful but necessary: Will he bite the bullet and become the leader that Philadelphia's black community wants and needs?/ The only thing John can do is bite the bullet

[1700s+ Military; fr the early surgical practice of having the patient bite hard on a bullet to divert the mind from pain and prevent screaming]



  1. An ace (1807+ Card games)
  2. Money; dollars (1900+ Underworld)
  3. A rivet (WWII aircraft workers)
  4. Anything thrown or hit so as to travel very fast, esp a baseball: He's throwing bullets out there (1940s+)
  5. A record rising very fast on the popularity charts (1970s+ Recording industry)
  6. A one-year prison sentence; boffo (1990s+ Police)


: currently bulleting up the charts

Related Terms

bite the bullet

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with bite the bullet

bite the bullet

Behave bravely or stoically when facing pain or a difficult situation, as in If they want to cut the budget deficit, they are going to have to bite the bullet and find new sources of revenue. This phrase is of military origin, but the precise allusion is uncertain. Some say it referred to the treatment of a wounded soldier without anesthesia, so that he would be asked to bite on a lead bullet during treatment. Also, Francis Grose's Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1796) holds that grenadiers being disciplined with the cat-o'nine-tails would bite on a bullet to avoid crying out in pain.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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