Bite the Bullet

Meaning of Bite the Bullet

The phrase “bit the bullet” means to accept the reality and then face the consequences. In other words, it means that a person should accept the coming hardships and face or endure resulting issues and problems with courage and boldness.

Origin of “Bite the Bullet”

The phrase “bite the bullet” might have originated before the US Civil War and taken from a dictionary of Francis Grose, where it is written, “they chew a bullet.” The dictionary was published in 1796.

Another origin mentions that the phrase had appeared from the Indian mutiny of 1857 against the British Colony in India. However, there is no clear reference given anywhere. However, one thing sure that Rudyard Kipling has used this phrase in his novel, The Light That Failed, as “Bite on the bullet, old man.” The novel was published in 1891.

Examples in Literature

Example #1

“Loaded language: The gun metaphors that pervade our everyday slang” by Landon Y. Jones April 18, 2014, The Washington Post

“Bite the bullet: Meaning to power through something unpleasant, the term comes from the practice of providing wounded soldiers a bullet to clench their teeth on while they underwent surgery without anesthetic. British writer Rudyard Kipling is thought to have been the first to use the expression figuratively. His 1891 novel, The Light That Failed, includes this line: “Bite on the bullet, old man, and don’t let them think you’re afraid.” These days, people are more likely to bite the bullet if they have to accept an unpleasant truth. And politicians are often urged to bite the bullet and compromise — suggesting that coming together to pass legislation is as painful as amputation while fully sentient.”

Landon Y. Jones published an article in the newspaper, The Washington Post, which explains the meanings as well as the first printed usage of this phrase. It refers to the same novel, as mentioned earlier, written by Rudyard Kipling. It also suggests its likely origin, the reason behind that origin and meanings in the current situation. Currently, the phrase is used along with the word ‘compromise,’ which means to leave morality and accept to break the law or do something illegal.

Example #2

Bite the Bullet by Machine Head

I understand your every fear
Your every pain, your every tear
With every struggle you conquer
Turn heart to steel, and will to iron

You want more? You’ll get it
Determined, ferocious
Grit down and bite the bullet
Dare to unbind
Smash and redefine

The hate you feel is nothing more
Than love you feel to win this war
This battle that rages inside you
With bloodlust you must unchain your shackles

You want more? You’ll get it
Determined, ferocious
Grit down and bite the bullet

The talks about the situation of his friend that if he wants more, he must be determined and aggressive. He must prove himself/herself and be ready to face any obstacle. The same applies in the case of love that he must be determined and aggressive to possess it. The singer repeats this phrase to encourage the friend to carry the rage to win what he wants.

Example #3

Bite the Bullet by Soulfly

I am part of the war
I have been here before
Grease the tires, spill the blood
Innocents dragged through the mud
Anger, fear, rising contradiction
Suffer, pester, carrying this affliction

Bite, bite the bullet
Bite, (Bite, bite, bite)
Bite the bullet
Rrah, bite the bullet
Bite, bite the bullet
Bite

The singer expresses his anger as he witnesses the war. He is perhaps one of the soldiers fighting on the battlefield. He sees everything, including the killings of the innocent people who are then “dragged in the mud.” However, the speaker understands that there is no option. As a soldier must endure the effects and bloodshed of the war. Hence, the soldier bites the bullet.

Example #4

From Dark Places by Linda Ladd

“You call hooking outside for hours at night in this getup light duty? Not to mention slapped around thrown into a truck by a couple of yahoos. Hey, I’ll bite the bullet and take a missing-person case any day.”

“Know why people say ‘bite the bullet,’ Morgan?”

This paragraph shows the character of Morgan talking to another person. He wants to tell his colleague that he should know why people use this phrase as it is his choice to be in this getup. That is why he should face it with its attendant results. The phrase means the same thing that it is the consequences that he has to face.

Examples in Sentences

Example #1: “Every soldier going for war has to bite the bullet if they witness any violence.”

Example #2: “John went to camping without carrying his gear. He had to adjust with Tommy, who talks in his sleep. I guess he just has to bite the bullet for the night.”

Example #3: “Renee needs to bite the bullet and look tough. The banking sector is not for weak-minded.”

Example #4: “When the world leaders bite the bullet and compromise, they are corrupted, and no one can trust them.”

Example #5: “The climate activist declared that he is ready to bite the bullet when the time comes, but he will not stop fighting against the chemical companies.”