Green’s Dictionary of Slang

bite v.

1. [late 16C–1920s] to cheat, to deceive; thus bitten, deceived, hoaxed; biting, cheating or deceiving.

2. [late 16C–mid-19C] to rob, to steal; thus bit/bitten, robbed, stolen; biting, robbing, stealing.

3. [17C+] (also bite on) to ‘fall for’, to ‘take the bait’.

4. [17C+] to worry, to annoy, to irritate; often ext. as bite one’s ass.

5. [late 18C–early 19C] to overreach, to impose.

6. [mid-19C+] (Aus./US) to cadge or borrow from, usu. money; thus bitten.

7. [1910s+] to be objectionable, distasteful, unpleasant; thus as n., a disparaging person.

8. [1920s] (US black) to deceive sexually [underpinned by SE backbite].

9. [1940s] to pressurize, to blackmail.

10. [1940s+] (US gay) to fellate.

11. [1970s+] (rap music) to plagiarize lyrics; thus biting, copying another artist; similarly used by graffiti artists.

12. [1980s+] (US campus, also bite off, bite on) to copy, e.g. a suit of clothes.

In phrases

bite off (v.)

see sense 11 above.

bite on (v.)

1. see sense 2 above.

2. see sense 11 above.

bite the blow (v.) [SE blow, a hit]

[late 17C–early 18C] to accomplish a major theft.

bitten out (adj.)

[1930s] (Aus.) subjected to as much begging and cadging as a place and its population will tolerate.

fortune-biter (n.)

[18C] a swindler, a confidence trickster.

on the bite

[1940s+] (Aus.) demanding money, either as payments, loans or bribes.

sheep-biter (n.)

1. [late 16C–18C] a wretched, miserable person; thus sheep-biting.

2. [17C–early 18C] a womanizer; thus sheep-biting [plays on mutton n. (1b)].

3. [mid-18C] a sheep-stealer.

snaffle biter (n.) [SE snaffle, a bridle]

[early 18C] a horse-thief.

what’s biting you? (also what’s bitten you? what’s itching you?)

[late 19C+] what’s the matter? what’s the problem?

SE in slang uses

In derivatives

bite-etite (n.) (also bitytite) [SE bite + appetite]

[late 19C–1900s] hunger, appetite.

In compounds

bite-up (n.)

[1930s] a quarrel.

biting dog (n.)

[1950s] (US gay) the anal sphincter in the context of intercourse.

In phrases

bite-and-blow (n.)

see separate entry.

bite feathers (v.) [the image of the passive partner in sodomy biting the pillow]

[1960s] (US gay) to lie on one’s stomach.

bite (it) off (v.) (also bite it) [lit. bite one’s tongue off]

[mid-19C+] (US) to restrain oneself, to stop talking.

bite one’s bait (v.) [16C bait, food; the image is of ‘chewing over’ the topic]

[1970s] (US) to pause before making too precipitate a decision.

bite one’s grannam (v.) (also bite one’s grandam) [SE grannam, corn, the basic constituent of some spirits]

[mid–late 17C] to become very drunk.

bite one’s lips (v.) [? one’s intoxicated state leads to such injury]

[1950s+] (drugs) to smoke marijuana.

bite one’s nails (v.)

[1960s–70s] (US gay) for one homosexual man to use mutually recognizable coded gestures to indicate his interest to another.

bite one’s name in (v.)

[mid-19C] to drink heavily.

bite one’s/the thumb at (v.) [the gesturer extends the thumb and clicks its nail forward on the front teeth]

[late 16C–1900s] to make a gesture of contempt or of threat.

bite (on) the bridle (v.) (also bite on the bit, bite upon the bridle, chew on the bridle) [SE bite on the bridle, to champ at the bit, like a restless horse]

[14C–early 19C] to be in reduced circumstances, to be impoverished.

bite on the nail (v.)

[1940s] (US) to suffer in silence.

bite someone’s ear (v.)

see under ear n.1

bite someone’s name (v.)

see under name n.

bite someone’s nose off (v.)

[late 19C+] to attack verbally.

bite the bag (v.) [? bag n.1 (1a)]

1. [1950s+] (US) to be very unsatisfactory; esp. as imper. excl. of dismissal, disapproval or contempt.

2. [1970s] (US campus) to be quiet, usu. as imper.

bite the bullet (v.) (also bite on the bullet) [the placing of a bullet between the teeth of wounded soldiers or sailors when undergoing surgery in pre-anaesthesia days]

1. [late 19C+] to suffer in silence.

2. [1910s+] to do what is necessary, however unappealing.

bite the dust (v.)

see under dust n.

bite the hairy banana (v.)

see under banana n.

bite the hand that feeds one (v.) [the image is of an ungrateful horse or dog]

[20C+] to injure a benefactor, to act ungratefully.

bite the root (v.) [image of root as something ‘low’]

[1980s] to be third-rate.

nail biter (n.)

[1970s+] (US) an anxiety-provoking situation, esp. a close contest.

tax bite (n.)

[1950s+] (US) the amount of tax one has to pay on a sum of money or salary cheque.

that bites (the big one) [i.e. that must hurt very much]

[1980s+] (US campus) an expression of commiseration.

In exclamations

bite my ass!

see separate entry.

bite it! [SE bite, ‘it’ is the penis or posterior]

[1940s+] (US) an excl. of aggressive dismissal.

bite me! (also bite me in the ass!) [ass n. (2)]

[1980s+] (US campus) a general derog./dismissive excl.

bite the ice! (also make ice!) [the pain of chewing ice]

[1970s+] (US teen) an excl. of dismissal, ‘go to hell!’.

bite this!

[1950s+] (US) a general derog. excl.