Definition of bite in English:

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Pronunciation: /bīt/

verb (past bit /bit/; past participle bitten /ˈbitn/)

[no object]
1(Of a person or animal) use the teeth to cut into something in order to eat it: Rosa bit into a cupcake [with object]: he bit a mouthful from the sandwich
More example sentences
  • A British woman whose arm was bitten off by a lion when she reached through the bars of an enclosure at an animal sanctuary in Spain was last night recovering from emergency surgery.
  • You can see from another photo the tail missing from one of the seatrout, due to it being bitten off by a seal or a small whale.
  • As she lay unconscious, part of her nose, her mouth and chin were bitten off by her Labrador-cross dog, Tania.
sink one's teeth into, chew, munch, crunch, chomp, tear at, snap at
1.1 [with object] (Of an animal or a person) use the teeth in order to inflict injury on: she had bitten, scratched, and kicked her assailant
More example sentences
  • One officer suffered minor injuries after being bitten on the hand.
  • It is very important to check you are up to date with your tetanus jabs if your skin is broken in an injury or you are bitten.
  • William sustained serious head and body injuries and Chang was bitten on his arms.
1.2 [with object] (Of a snake, insect, or spider) wound with fangs, pincers, or a sting: she was bitten by an adder
More example sentences
  • All over the world, people come in with wounds and think they've been bitten by a spider.
  • She tried to weed the garden but got bitten by a spider.
  • I got bitten by another spider last night while I was asleep.
1.3 (bite at) (Of an animal) snap at; attempt to bite: it is not unusual for this dog to bite at its owner’s hand
More example sentences
  • You'll need to approach the animal slowly and carefully because they may snap or bite at you.
  • Even her kicking and attempts to bite at his hand did not help her cause.
  • The coat not only stops shedding, but also keeps the dog's fur clean, prevents the dog from licking and biting at healing wounds, and keeps burrs, stickers and ticks at bay.
1.4(Of an acid) corrode a surface: chemicals have bitten deep into the stone
More example sentences
  • Square paintings divided into apparently geometric blocks, the stripped areas retaining the ghostly residue of the oils where they have bitten into the canvas.
  • It was impossible not to wince, though, when the caustic chemical bit into open flesh.
  • The acid bites around the particles, creating tooth, or a collection of little marks in the plate that hold ink.
corrode, eat into, eat away at, burn (into), etch, dissolve
1.5(Of a fish) take the bait or lure on the end of a fishing line into the mouth.
Example sentences
  • We were fishing, and all of the fish were biting on one side of the boat.
  • Organiser Ray Collins is hoping the amazing run of fine weather doesn't come to an end - even if a spot of rain would get the fish biting.
  • When the fish aren't biting, I want to listen to her tell me what makes her happy and what makes her cry.
1.6(Of a person) be persuaded to accept a deal or offer: a hundred or so retailers should bite
More example sentences
  • If Arafat wouldn't bite when Barak offered him the whole cake, the reasoning goes, then that must not have been what he was interested in in the first place.
  • If retailers bite, licensing could feasibly extend anywhere that makes sense for the brand's lifestyle positioning.
  • The Yanks' rightfielder wasn't biting at Araton's line of reasoning.
accept, agree, respond;
be lured, be enticed, be tempted;
take the bait
2(Of a tool, tire, boot, etc.) grip a surface: once on the wet grass, my boots failed to bite
More example sentences
  • The technique to going quick in one of these jiggers is to leave the braking as late as possible, and enter the corner under brakes, so that the front tyres are biting.
  • Our tools bit like the teeth of shark, as net after net was left shredded at our feet.
  • He had an old, discoloured ball, just the sort that's ready to grip and bite, in his hand.
2.1(Of an object) press into a part of the body, causing pain: the handcuffs bit into his wrists
More example sentences
  • The metal stirrup bit into the arch of my foot, but I pressed against it even harder.
  • He pressed it forward slightly and Adam winced as it bit into the tender flesh on his throat.
  • I grabbed her hand to pull her up, wincing as her numerous rings bit into my fingers.
2.2Cause emotional pain: Cheryl’s betrayal had bitten deep
More example sentences
  • These are staggering figures and have bitten deep into the British soul.
  • Then the dreams became too troublesome, the regrets began to bite too deep, too bitterly.
  • Tim Lambert, normally writing on science, brings a sad photograph and a homely family touch which bites almost deeper than the horror.
2.3(Of a policy or situation) take effect, with unpleasant consequences: when the cuts in art education start to bite
More example sentences
  • The fuel crisis is already biting in this household.
  • For example, earlier in 2000, unexpected quantities of Pentium IIs made their appearance when other shortages were biting.
  • Because they are New York too - except that there the economic crisis is biting, and shopping is something other people do.
2.4North American informal Be very bad, unpleasant, or unfortunate: it bites that your mom won’t let you go
More example sentences
  • I am trying so hard and it bites that I can't really get to the gym consistently.
  • It bites that hockey-loving kids are denied their seasonal TV fix.
  • If it's not fun then it just bites...right?


1An act of biting into something in order to eat it: Stephen ate a hot dog in three big bites
More example sentences
  • I held one out in my hand and the donkey ate it in big bites.
  • He runs his hand through his hair before eating his piece in two bites.
  • He eats the piece voraciously in several huge bites dropping the remainder.
mouthful, piece, bit, morsel
1.1A piece cut off by biting: Robyn took a large bite out of her sandwich
More example sentences
  • Lady Hammer smiled, taking a bite from her own piece of the sweet bread.
  • She broke the bread in half, replacing the bigger portion to the tray and took a bite of the piece she held.
  • I glared at her while taking a bite of the scrumptious piece of buttered and toasted bread.
1.2 informal A quick snack: I plan to stop off in the village and have a bite to eat
More example sentences
  • When we were flying about all over the place we would always try to catch up for an hour in the day to grab a bite to eat or have a quick pint before going on to our next appointments.
  • Unlike last year, there won't be a bar so bring a packed lunch for a bite to eat and drink.
  • With only a couple hours in-between events you barely have enough time to grab a bite to eat and a quick shower before it is time to chamois-up again and hit the road.
a snack, a light meal, a quick meal;
informal a little something
1.3A small morsel of prepared food, intended to constitute one mouthful: minced bacon bites with cheese
More example sentences
  • These pom-pom cocktail sticks are adorable - and so much more fun than just regular toothpicks for small bites of food.
  • Partying Muscovites do not do insignificant taster bites of food; they do whole meals.
  • There are also fried shrimp, some very fresh crisp celery, carrots and cucumbers with a creamy dip, and some lightly cornmeal-crusted bites of fish.
1.4A short piece of information: snack-sized bites of information See also sound bite.
More example sentences
  • That's a perspective that we don't have from the very short news bites.
  • You and your child are watching ESPN Sportscenter and you see these short news bites.
  • With a large cast on his hands, Whedon had to give audiences a sense of each character in short, economic bites.
1.5A wound inflicted by an animal’s or a person’s teeth: Perry’s dog had given her a nasty bite
More example sentences
  • Deep puncture wounds from animal bites become morbid if not promptly tended and closely followed.
  • Not only can rats inflict a nasty bite, they are associated with disease.
  • If the wound was caused by an animal bite, you should report it to the county public health department.
munch, chew, nibble, nip, snap
1.6A wound inflicted by a snake, insect, or spider: his face was covered in mosquito bites
More example sentences
  • Check your children for ticks, insect bites and allergic reactions.
  • All were covered with insect bites, were underfed, and three had malaria.
  • I woke up to discover I am covered with mosquito bites from head to toe, from sleeping with at D's house with the windows open.
1.7An act of bait being taken by a fish: by four o’clock he still hadn’t had a single bite
More example sentences
  • The only odd thing about fishing for orfe in very cold conditions with bottom baits is the bites.
  • I fished on for some thirty minutes without a bite then changed over to lobworm, still no success.
  • Most big-game fish bites come one at a time and so it is normal for everyone to take their turn in trying to catch a fish, which translates into taking it in turns to deal with a bite.
1.8 Dentistry The bringing together of the teeth in occlusion.
Example sentences
  • One of the more important aspects of mandibular reduction is to seat the occlusion or bite, as it existed before the accident.
  • To detect tooth decay and oral cancer, check your bite and determine if you have problems such as grinding your teeth or problems with your jaw joint.
  • As your child grows older, you may be concerned about his or her bite and the straightness of his or her teeth.
1.9 Dentistry The imprint of the teeth in occlusion in a plastic material.
Example sentences
  • The authors present a computer vision technique for the acquisition and processing of 3-D images of the profile of wax dental imprints in the automation of diagnosis in orthodontics.
  • A double impression 'bite' is made, allowing both the shape of the teeth to be cast and the occlusion to be fixed.
  • The wax bite is removed and chilled for a moment in cold water.
2A sharp or pungent flavor: a fresh, lemony bite
More example sentences
  • The prawns were top quality with a real bite and flavour that carried through the spicy sauce.
  • The Spaniard insists on only being occasionally surprised by a piquant bite of hot pepper.
  • Sherry vinegar brightens salad dressings with a sharp bite of purple grapes.
piquancy, pungency, spiciness, strong flavor, tang, zest, sharpness, tartness
informal kick, punch, edge, zing
2.1Incisiveness or cogency of style: his colorful characterizations brought added bite to the story
More example sentences
  • For all that, it remained a good newspaper, with style, bite and flair and a welcome contrast to the more predictable Herald and Sun.
  • Contrasting the performance of girls and boys adds extra bite to the analysis.
  • The new drummer, clearly a big Keith Moon fan, added some much needed energy and bite to the songs.
2.2A feeling of cold in the air or wind: by early October there’s a bite in the air
More example sentences
  • Out of the sun, though, there was still a cold bite to the air.
  • Inside the park, suddenly feeling the bite of a chill wind under a slate-grey sky, the marchers stood and listened to speakers whose delivery seldom lived up to the occasion.
  • The sun is out, there's a cold bite to the air, it's fresh and, at last, the best season of the year has arrived.



someone's bark is worse than their bite

see bark1.
Example sentences
  • If someone's bark is worse than their bite, they get angry and shout and make threats, but don't actually do anything.
  • Crusading journalism's bark is worse than its bite.
  • Though he does have very strong opinions, I think his bark is worse than his bite and I hear it on good authority he can be won over.

be bitten by the —— bug

Develop a passionate interest in a specified activity: Joe was bitten by the showbiz bug at the age of four
More example sentences
  • Seems that Bob has been bitten by the sales bug after his experiences at Imvector.
  • In 1994, while I was a managing editor at Doubleday, I acquired my first book and was bitten by the acquisitions bug.
  • Have I been bitten by the Wi-Fi bug?

bite the big one

North American informal Die.
Example sentences
  • Don't let the evildoers say that Liberty bites the big one.
  • The filmmakers do go out of their way, however, to remove as much culpability from Cordell as possible when a villain bites the big one, like ducking just in time for a baddie to get stuffed with an arrow fired by his own co-villain.
  • Sargon is supposedly killed when Kirk dies, but he doesn't die and yet the being inside Spock bites the big one when Spock dies.

bite the bullet

Decide to do something difficult or unpleasant that one has been putting off or hesitating over.
From the old custom of giving wounded soldiers a bullet to bite on when undergoing surgery without anesthetic
Example sentences
  • But now I have decided to bite the bullet and give it a go.
  • I decided to bite the bullet and spend the money to rebuild her engine.
  • We decided to bite the bullet, and implement the scheme in order to raise standards, for the sake of Merton's children.

bite the dust

informal Be killed: and the bad guys bite the dust with lead in their bellies
More example sentences
  • And whole nations of bad guys would bite the dust.
  • I'm not going to talk baby talk to Annie and teach her the Disney world of violence with no consequences, where the bad guy always bites the dust and the good guy lives happily ever after.
  • I had started seed last summer and put out some transplants last fall, and they bit the dust with our harsh winter.
5.1Fail; come to an end: she hoped the new program would not bite the dust for lack of funding
More example sentences
  • By the time DOS bit the dust in the fall of 2001, the company whose growth it ignited was valued at $341 billion.
  • Also biting the dust will be the Metropole's ballroom and other rooms, centres of many late night jazz festival gigs and other functions.
  • The games are being run off thick and fast and the results as usual in a competition with such a high class field have been mixed to say the least with an odd big name biting the dust.

bite the hand that feeds one

Deliberately hurt or offend a benefactor.
Example sentences
  • It's funny to hear a filmmaker bite the hand that feeds.
  • And then its more prophetic voice might be muted or silenced because it doesn't want to bite the hand that feeds.
  • Aunt Marthy's passive hopefulness is problematic for Linda but critiquing it would be to bite the hand that feeds and inspires her.

bite someone's head off

see head.

bite one's lip

Repress an emotion; stifle laughter or a retort: he could have mocked Carol’s obnoxious behavior, but he bit his lip
More example sentences
  • Ashley felt the beginning of a smile, and she bit her lip.
  • She bit her lip; suddenly realizing she'd used the term "amazing" a lot since arriving in London.
  • I bit my lip and forced myself to be calm.
keep quiet, keep one's mouth shut, say nothing, bite one's tongue

bite off more than one can chew

Take on a commitment one cannot fulfill.
Example sentences
  • The problem isn't tennis; it's biting off more than you can chew and trying to swallow it in one big gulp.
  • Don't bite off more than you can chew.
  • So be there six sharp - make your own forensic analysis, bite off more than you can chew and catch some local talent at the same time.

bite one's tongue

Make a desperate effort to avoid saying something: I had to bite my tongue and accept his explanation
More example sentences
  • Parents should bite their tongue and make an effort to get along with a teacher.
  • Julian gaped at him for a moment before abruptly leaving the office, biting his tongue to avoid saying things he wanted to but which would surely cost him his job.
  • She bit her tongue in a large effort not to say what had floated across her mind.

one could have bitten one's tongue off

Used to show that someone profoundly and immediately regrets having said something.
Example sentences
  • Even as the question left my lips, I could have bitten my tongue off.
  • He cried, and the next instant could have bitten his tongue off for the childish vanity of the speech.
  • He could have bitten his tongue off the moment the words were spoken.

once bitten, twice shy

proverb An unpleasant experience induces caution.
Example sentences
  • There will be an element of once bitten, twice shy with investors who will shy away from going back into equities.
  • The Kerry champions, on their first visit to Croke Park as a club, played with the conservatism and nervousness of a team that had been here before, once bitten, twice shy.
  • But her resilient, pragmatic approach won over voters who could arguably have been once bitten, twice shy about returning any sort of Thatcher to victory.

put the bite on

North American & Australian/New Zealand informal Borrow or extort money from.
1930s: bite in the slang sense 'cadging'
Example sentences
  • Damn, I thought, putting the bite on me for food money.
  • I'm no elitist and I'm all for genuine homeless people getting a better deal all round, but it beggared belief to see him shopping with the people he was putting the bite on just minutes before.
  • It is scandalous is that while Catholic schools across the country have missed out on anywhere between $560 million and $2-3 billion over the past four years, they have put the bite on parents to make up some of the difference.

take a bite out of

informal Reduce by a significant amount: insurance costs that can take a bite out of your retirement funds
More example sentences
  • It is not clear precisely how long that period was, but it clearly takes a bite out of that 9 month period.
  • Energy costs are taking a bite out of household budgets, especially for lower-income families.
  • It must have seemed like Groundhog Day, as problems at his American West Coast subsidiary Pacificorp took a bite out of the Glasgow utility's share price.

Phrasal verbs

bite something back

Refrain with difficulty from saying something, making a sound, or expressing an emotion: Melissa bit back a scathing comment
More example sentences
  • I was going to retort with some scathing sarcasm, but I bit it back for one reason.
  • A pathetic sound ripped out of her before she could bite it back.
  • Nervous laughter welled up but she bit it back, knowing how crazy it would sound.



Pronunciation: /ˈbīdər/
Example sentences
  • Named after its white-striped legs, the tiger mosquito is a vicious biter that transmits tropical viruses including dengue fever, yellow fever and forms of encephalitis.
  • I would like to add that every dog is potentially a biter, and that it takes early bite-inhibition training and thorough socialization to minimize the chances of a dog losing its cool.
  • Unless the bitee is severely allergic to the biter's venom, what will usually result is some swelling, chest pains and fever.


Old English bītan, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch bijten and German beissen.

  • There are words related to bite in many other European languages. Their ancestor also gave us bit (Old English) and bitter, and it probably meant ‘to split, to cleave’. To bite the bullet now means ‘to face up to something unpleasant’. Its origin is said to be in battlefield surgery—that wounded soldiers would be given a bullet to bite on to prevent them from crying out when the pain became unbearable. However, there is no evidence that this ever happened, and surgeons always carried leather straps with them for this purpose. Another phrase involving biting something unusual is to bite the dust, ‘to be killed or come to an end’. Nowadays people are likely to associate it with Westerns and gunfights, but it is used by the Scottish novelist Tobias Smollett in 1750, and similar expressions such as to bite the ground and bite the sand are found even earlier. Man bites dog is a much-used jokey newspaper headline, which harks back to the quote: ‘When a dog bites a man, that is not news, because it happens so often. But if a man bites a dog, that is news.’ This was said by the American journalist John B. Bogart (1848–1921).

    The bit in computing, a unit of information expressed as either a 0 or 1, is a contraction of binary digit. Bit and bite were combined to give byte, a group of eight bits.

Words that rhyme with bite

affright, alight, alright, aright, bedight, bight, blight, bright, byte, cite, dight, Dwight, excite, fight, flight, fright, goodnight, height, ignite, impolite, indict, indite, invite, kite, knight, light, lite, might, mite, night, nite, outfight, outright, plight, polite, quite, right, rite, sight, site, skintight, skite, sleight, slight, smite, Snow-white, spite, sprite, tight, tonight, trite, twite, underwrite, unite, uptight, white, wight, wright, write

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: bite

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