Green’s Dictionary of Slang

eat up v.

1. to scold or rebuke.

[US]P.T. Barnum letter in Saxon Sel. Letters (1983) 8 Mar. 16: But don’t eat a fellow up now without giving him a chance for his life.
[US]H.O. Flipper Colored Cadet at West Point 69: He ‘eats’ that plebe up entirely, and then sends a corporal around to instruct him in his orders.
[US]J. Conroy Disinherited 109: ‘Why the hell you eatin’ me up blood-raw all the time?’ Ed demanded [...] after a particularly vitriolic bawling-out.

2. to defeat or destroy.

[US]S. Smith Major Downing (1834) 119: Every body seems to be running mad, and jest ready to eat each other up. There’s Russia snapping her teeth like a great bear, and is just agoing to eat up the Poles [...] And there’s the Dutch trying to eat up Holland, and the Belgiums are trying to eat up the Dutch.
[US]G. Devol Forty Years a Gambler 92: I told him he might be a good man down in Texas [...] but he was a sucker up in this country, and I could eat him up.
[US]National Observer 13 Dec. 88 col. 2: But buttons tarnish, hot gospelling palls, the eating-up of white men is in strictest consonance with regal tradition and the regal habit [F&H].
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 18 Aug. 26/3: Glebe fairly ‘ate up’ Western Suburbs by 35 points to 15, and Balmain obliterated North Sydney with 16 points to 12 – which was a close thing in a Northern Union game.
[US]D. Hammett ‘Fly Paper’ Story Omnibus (1966) 55: Get out of my way, little man [...] I’ll eat you up.
[US]P. Thomas Down These Mean Streets (1970) 75: Man, you getting low or something? That’ll eat up the profits.
[US] in N. George ‘Rakin and Eric B.’ in Buppies, B-Boys, Baps and Bohos (1994) 79: Twenty-one MC’s ate up at the same time.

3. (also eat) to believe unquestioningly.

[US]C.L. Cullen Tales of the Ex-Tanks 223: I ate up all the 1 to 3 shots they pushed at me.
[US]B. Fisher A. Mutt in Blackbeard Compilation (1977) 78: Judging from the native’s facial expression, I deduce that he is eating up Tobasco’s line of bull.
[US]T.A. Dorgan in Zwilling TAD Lex. (1993) 34: (IS: Listening to the boys salve the boss about the old tin cup he won on the links Saturday) Oh — boy They all like it — They all eat it up — I like it meself but not too thick.
[US]R. Lardner ‘A Frame-Up’ in Coll. Short Stories (1941) 433: Looks like you was right [...] He’s eat it up.
[UK]Wodehouse Inimitable Jeeves 202: The young gentlemen ate it, if I may use the expression.
[US]J. Callahan Man’s Grim Justice 39: He ate it up hook, line and sinker.
[US]Mad mag. Oct.–Nov. 48: You [...] proceed to make mince-meat of him. The crowd eats it up.
[US]E. Torres Carlito’s Way 149: The jury ate it up.
[US]J. Ellroy Brown’s Requiem 234: All the good guys versus the bad guys shit. He eats it up.
[US]R.C. Cruz Straight Outta Compton 39: A tall, muscular man wearing Brutini loafers moved over from a nearby chair and hit on her. [...] She ate it up.
[US]D.H. Sterry Chicken (2003) 48: ‘If you were at a party and I saw you I’d definitely hit on you.’ [...] She eats it up with a silver spoon.
[Aus] J.J. DeCeglie ‘Death Cannot Be Delegated’ in Crime Factory: Hard Labour [ebook] I knew he was a righty so I shoved the gun to that temple [...] so as the police ate the suicide.

4. to do well; to act competently; to deal with efficiently.

[US]Wash. Post 27 Nov. 2/4: ‘Played it well,’ said she. ‘Why, he simply ate it up.’ I found out later that eating a thing up means simply doing it extremely well.
[US]J. London Valley of the Moon (1914) 5: My! I got to pass it to you, [...] You’re a sure fierce hustler – just eat it [i.e. hard work] up.
[US]R. Lardner You Know Me Al (1984) 29: That was a ground ball that the recrut shortstop Johnson ought to of ate up.

5. (orig. theatre, also eat) to enjoy immensely, to acclaim.

[US]L. Merrick Peggy Harper 197: It was nothing to do with the piece, you know; they ate the piece it was only Galbraith they were guying .
[UK]Wodehouse Carry on, Jeeves 88: The Chronicle would jump at it. They eat that sort of stuff.
[Aus]K. Tennant Foveaux 162: Work that profile stuff for all it’s worth. They eat it up.
[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 10: They all ate up the idea.
[US]R. Chandler Long Good-Bye 56: it would be front page stuff for weeks. Every rag in the country would eat it up.
[US]L. Bruce How to Talk Dirty 84: They eat it up, Lenny [...] they eat it up.
[US]D. Goines Never Die Alone 26: My southern readers will eat it up.
[US]J. Ellroy Brown’s Requiem 207: A cynical, world-weary ethos tempered with compassion that women would eat up.
[UK]Indep. Rev. 26 Aug. 15: Kids, no doubt, will eat this up.
[UK]Guardian Rev. 21 Apr. 23: The oldsters in the packed club just ate this shit up.

6. to take control of, to ‘consume’.

[US]H. Miller Tropic of Cancer (1963) 117: There’s something on his mind, something that’s eating him up.
[US]R. Prather Scrambled Yeggs 113: Look, I’m eaten up with curiosity.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 77: You’re creaming to eat me up.
[US]D. Jenkins Semi-Tough 9: I’m not eaten up with any goddamn hundred years of guilt about you sumbitches.
[US]J. Ellroy Brown’s Requiem 97: What I couldn’t take was that Blow Job Anderson was more valuable to the L.A.P.D. than Fritz Brown. That was what ate me up.
[UK]A. Sillitoe Birthday 97: Something was eating him up. I never knew what it was. He just got ratty and took it out on me.

In phrases

wouldn’t that eat you up?

(US) phr. implying infuriation .

[US]Eve. Star (Wash., DC) 6 June 39/4: In a voice already thick with nervousness, came a ‘Wouldn’t that — wouldn’t that eat you up?’.