Why do we say "To bite the bullet.

Well-Known Expressions

To bite the bullet

Meaning:

To force yourself to do something that you really don't want to do.

Background:

All likely sources of this expression trace back to the military, but there are at least three variations:

  • Back in the days when soldiers wounded on the battlefield were treated without the benefits of anesthesia they bit down on a bullet instead, perhaps to distract themselves from the pain or to avoid cracking their teeth by biting down too hard; or simply to avoid crying out (biting down on leather was also an option).
  • Soldiers/sailors being disciplined with a whipping would be given a bullet (or leather strop) to bite on because it was considered a point of honor not to cry out.
  • Some cartridges used to come in two parts - the missile which was held in place by grease, and the gunpowder. To prime the gun it was necessary to bite the bullet in half, pour the gunpowder into the barrel and then spit the bullet down the barrel. Some believe that the expression dates from when Indian soldiers fought for the British Empire because the fat used could have been from a variety of animals, including pigs and cows. If the cartridge contained pig or cow fat the solider could be considered damned, as pig meat is taboo for Muslims, and cows are considered holy by Hindus.

    From time to time one of the Wordplays can have more than one valid interpretation. In this instance, I had in mind 'to bite the bullet'; but also counted 'to beat the band' and 'to break the bank' as correct when randomly selecting the winner.

    Alphabetical list of expressions

    Challenge yourself with BookBrowse Wordplays

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Lincoln in the Bardo
    Lincoln in the Bardo
    by George Saunders
    George Saunders' Lincoln in the Bardo is a philosophy discourse brilliantly disguised as a ...
  • Book Jacket
    Tender
    by Belinda McKeon
    Most of us have heard the slightly trite saying: "If you love something, set it free." But one can ...
  • Book Jacket
    All Tomorrow's Parties
    by Rob Spillman
    In this absorbing memoir, co-founder of Tin House magazine, Rob Spillman, recalls his artistic ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Sellout
by Paul Beatty

The first book by an American author to win the prestigious Man Booker Prize.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    I See You
    by Clare Mackintosh

    A dark and compelling thriller about an everyday woman trapped in the confines of her everyday world.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    A Piece of the World
    by Christina Baker Kline

    A stunning novel of friendship, passion, and art from the #1 bestselling author of Orphan Train.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

Sometimes I think we're alone. Sometimes I think we're not. In either case, the thought is staggering.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

K Your F C

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.