Bite Your Tongue (Origin)

by Craig Shrives

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

The term "bite your tongue" means to avoid talking.
To Bite Your Tongue (Origin)
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.

Previous and Next Sayings

Test Your Knowledge of English Proverbs and Idioms

Ready for the Test?

More Proverbs, Sayings, and Idioms

Help Us Improve Grammar Monster

  • Do you disagree with something on this page?
  • Did you spot a typo?

Find Us Quicker!

  • When using a search engine (e.g., Google, Bing), you will find Grammar Monster quicker if you add #gm to your search term.
Next lesson >