Bite Your Tongue (Origin)

What Is the Origin of the Saying "Bite Your Tongue"?

The term "bite your tongue" means to avoid talking.

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To Bite Your Tongue (Origin)

Examples of Use:

  • In order to avoid starting an argument, it's sometimes best to bite your tongue and refrain from saying something provocative.
  • When she heard the inaccurate statement, she had to bite her tongue to prevent herself from correcting the speaker.
  • He wanted to express his disagreement, but he chose to bite his tongue and maintain peace in the conversation.
  • She couldn't help but roll her eyes, but she quickly bit her tongue to avoid causing tension in the room.
  • Despite feeling frustrated, he decided to bite his tongue and let the matter go rather than escalate the situation.
The term "bite your tongue" is a variant of "hold your tongue." Both mean "stop your tongue from moving so you cannot speak." There are two thoughts as to why biting is used instead of holding:
  • Biting your tongue punishes it for trying to speak.
  • Biting your tongue allows you to hold it discreetly, i.e., without moving your hands to your face.
This phrase is used in William Shakespeare's Henry VI Part 2, which was written in 1591:
  • Ready to starve, and dares not touch his own.
    So York must sit, and fret, and bite his tongue,
    While his own lands are bargain'd for, and sold.

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This page was written by Craig Shrives.