verb (used with object), bit, bit·ten or bit, bit·ing.
- to take advantage of; cheat; deceive: I got bitten in a mail-order swindle.
- to annoy or upset; anger: What's biting you, sorehead?
verb (used without object), bit, bit·ten or bit, bit·ing.
- the catch or hold that one object or one part of a mechanical apparatus has on another.
- a surface brought into contact to obtain a hold or grip, as in a lathe chuck or similar device.
- the amount of material that a mechanical shovel or the like can carry at one time.
- to solicit or attempt to borrow money or something of value from.
- to press for money, as in extortion: They found out about his prison record and began to put the bite on him.
Origin of bite
Synonyms for bite
verb bites, biting, bit or bitten
Word Origin for bite
Old English bitan (class I strong verb; past tense bat, past participle biten), from Proto-Germanic *bitan (cf. Old Saxon bitan, Old Norse and Old Frisian bita, Middle Dutch biten, Dutch bijten, German beissen, Gothic beitan "to bite"), from PIE root *bheid- "to split, crack" (see fissure).
To bite the bullet is said to be 1700s military slang, from old medical custom of having the patient bite a lead bullet during an operation to divert attention from pain and reduce screaming. Figurative use from 1891; the custom itself attested from 1840s. To bite (one's) tongue "refrain from speaking" is 1590s. To bite the dust "die" is 1750 (Latin had the same image; cf. Virgil: procubuit moriens et humum semel ore momordit). To bite off more than one can chew (c.1880) is U.S. slang, from plug tobacco.
c.1200, from bite (v).
bite off more than one can chew
Take on more work or a bigger task than one can handle, as in With two additional jobs, Bill is clearly biting off more than he can chew. Cautions against taking on too much appear in medieval sources, although this particular metaphor, alluding to taking in more food than one can chew, dates only from about 1870.
In addition to the idioms beginning with bite
- bite off more than one can chew
- bite one's nails
- bite one's tongue
- bite someone's head off
- bite the bullet
- bite the dust
- bite the hand that feeds you
- bark is worse than one's bite
- put the bite on
- sound bite