What Does Bite the Dust Mean?

Bite the Dust Meaning

Definition: To die, to fail, or to be destroyed.

This phrase usually implies a falling to the ground, whether it be figuratively or literally. This could be through death, but it could also mean destruction. Buildings that are demolished, for example, are often said to have bitten the dust.

Today, it can be said that someone who has died has bitten the dust even if no falling was actually involved. Similarly, when technology stops working, there is no falling but it is said that the device has bitten the dust.

Origin of Bite the Dust

meaning of bite the dustThe Bible carries the first variation of this phrase, saying in Psalms 72,

  • They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him and his enemies shall lick the dust.

Centuries later, Scottish author Tobias Smollett wrote in his 1750 Adventures of Gil Blas of Santillane,

  • We made two of them bite the dust, and the others betake themselves to flight.

In the 1800s, Homer’s The Iliad (700 b.c.) was translated to say,

  • Grant that my sword may pierce the shirt of Hector about his heart, and that full many of his comrades may bite the dust as they fall dying round him.

This has been disputed by some, who say the translation should read,

  • …fall headlong in the dust, and bite the earth…

In any event, the expression comes from the act of falling to the ground—through death, destruction, or other failure—and getting a face full of dirt.

Examples of Bite the Dust

another one bites the dustIn the modern day, people commonly use this expression to talk about the failure of technology:

  • My computer bit the dust last night. Now, I need a new one.

Here is an example dialogue of a start-up app that has recently failed and gone bankrupt,

Larry: Have you heard that the new program lost its VC funding?

Paul: No, what happened?

Larry: I guess their user engagement went way down and the VCs pulled out.

Paul: Well, another one bites the dust, I suppose.

More Examples

  • Sponsorless Qatar race bites the dust. The 2017 Tour of Qatar was on Wednesday called off due to lack of a sponsor, cycling’s ruling body announced. –The Times of India

Summary

The English phrase to bite the dust means to die, fail, or be destructed.

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