Meaning of Idiom ‘Bite Off More Than You Can Chew’

To bite off more than you can chew is to take on more duty than you can handle; to try to do a job that is too huge for you.

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This idiom is most regularly used as a straightforward warning against taking on more than you can handle: “Don’t bite off more than you have the right to chew!”

It deserve to additionally be offered in the past tense, as in “he little bit off even more than he can chew.”

Instances Of Use

“I recognize you want to create a great thesis but don’t bite off even more than you deserve to chew.”

“Nathan was already working two work. Now he’s taken a third. He’s definitely bitten off even more than he can chew.”



Although this idiom possibly has actually older origins relating to food, in America, it is sassist to have obtained during the 1800’s in the American West, in regards to chewing tobacco, which came in solid ‘cakes.’ The expression referred to biting off a bigger item of tobacco and you might chew, which could bring about swallowing. Swenabling tobacco can make you extremely ill, and also in some cases, have the right to be fatal.

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Since people frequently take bigger bites of food than they have the right to comfortably fit in their mouth and also chew well, which deserve to result in choking, the idiom most likely has a more basic beginning.

The earliest published offers in America show up to be from the 1870’s, such as in John Hankid Beadle’s Western Wilds (1878): “I was down as Manchester the day the hauled dvery own the stars an’ stripes, an’ sez I, ‘Men, you’ve bit off more’n you can chaw;’ an’ they laughed at me.” in the News by Peter Bengelsdorf turns up an additional use from the same year, in Ayer’s American Almanac (Lowell, Massachusetts): “It is a authorize of a petty guy to be always in a hurry.

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It reflects that he has actually “bit off more than he can chew.”

Similar are discovered in other languages such as the Italian. For example, don’t bite off even more than you deserve to chew, in Italian, is expressed as Non fare il passo piu lungo della gamba or “Don’t take a step much longer than your leg.”