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, we 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: Only Child
    Only Child
    by Rhiannon Navin
    Rhiannon Navin's debut novel, Only Child received an overall score of 4.8 out of 5 from BookBrowse ...
  • Book Jacket: Brass
    Brass
    by Xhenet Aliu
    In 1996, Waterbury, Connecticut is a town of abandoned brass mills. Eighteen-year-old Elsie ...
  • Book Jacket: Timekeepers
    Timekeepers
    by Simon Garfield
    If you can spare three minutes and 57 seconds, you can hear the driving, horse-gallop beat of Sade&#...
  • Book Jacket: How to Stop Time
    How to Stop Time
    by Matt Haig
    Tom Hazard, the protagonist of How to Stop Time, is afflicted with a condition of semi-immortality ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

A nuanced portrait of war, and of three women haunted by the past and the secrets they hold.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Only Child
    by Rhiannon Navin

    A dazzling, tenderhearted debut about healing, family, and the exquisite wisdom of children.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The French Girl
    by Lexie Elliott

    An exhilarating debut psychological suspense novel for fans of Fiona Barton and Ruth Ware.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Beartown

Now in Paperback!

From the author of a A Man Called Ove, a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T I M A Slip B C A L

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.