General English

  • noun a small amount of food that you cut with your teeth in order to eat it
  • noun a small meal
  • noun a place on someone’s body where it has been bitten
  • verb to cut someone or something with your teeth
  • verb to make a small hole in your skin which turns red and itchy



  • In glazing, the overlap between the innermost edge of the stop or frame and the outer edge of the light or panel.


  • verb (of the ball) to make firm contact with the ground on pitching, typically on a damp or ‘green’ wicket, enabling the bowler to produce substantial turn or movement off the pitch
    Citation ‘The amount of break that can be effected depends much upon how far the ground is in a state receptive of the spin — how much, that is, it allows the ball to “bite”’ (Ranjitsinhji 1897)
    Citation ‘De Silva … got his leg-breaks to bite enough to dismiss Edgar and Coney to diving short leg catches’ (Christopher Wordsworth, Observer 19 June 1983)


  • noun the action of biting or of being bitten
  • verb to puncture someone’s skin


  • noun the effect of acid eating into metal when making blocks or engraving plates


  • verb to be repellent, inferior, worthless. Since around 2000 ‘it bites’ has been synonymous with ‘it sucks’.


  • the quality of wine with a noticeable level of acid or tannin. In full-bodied red wines this can be good, giving the wine’s finish a sharp tang.

Origin & History of “bite”

The Old English verb bītan came from prehistoric Germanic *bītan, which also produced German beissen and Dutch bijten. The short-vowel version of the base, *bit-, was the source of bit, beetle, and probably bitter, and is also represented in various non-Germanic forms, such as Latin fidere ‘split’ (from which English gets fission). Bait came via Old Norse from a causal usage, ‘cause to bite’, and passed via Old French into abet (the possible source of bet).