What Does Bust A Gut Mean?

Bust a Gut Meaning

Definition: To laugh really hard.

Origin of Bust a Gut

The exact origin of this expression is unclear. However, the idiom became popular in the 1900s.

Bust comes from burst, which in turn is related to break. Gut is an informal word for stomach.

When a person laughs really hard, for a long time, it can often hurt their abdominal muscles. This is because these muscles clench during heavy laughter. Therefore, it can feel like the stomach is breaking, or the gut is bursting, when a person is laughing hysterically.

Examples of Bust a Gut

define bust a gut laughingIn the first example, two friends are discussing which movie to see.

Marcus: Well, we have about ten movies from which we can choose. Do you want to see a comedy?

Patsy: Sure! This movie here is a comedy. My friend Ron saw it. He said I’d bust a gut if I saw it, so it must be funny. Do you want to see this one?

Marcus: Sure! It sounds hilarious!

gut busting laughterIn the second example, a sister is talking to her brother. She explains that she couldn’t stop laughing even though she was in an important meeting.

Angela: I’m embarrassed. I was really unprofessional at work today.

Samson: What happened?

Angela: Well, it didn’t start out that bad. I was at a meeting with my boss and roughly seven of my coworkers. One of my coworkers told a joke, and it was really funny, so I started laughing.

Samson: That doesn’t sound so bad.

Angela: That wasn’t bad because everyone else was laughing, too. But everyone else stopped after a few seconds. I tried to stop, too, but I just couldn’t. I was really busting a gut. I just couldn’t stop laughing.

Samson: What did you do?

Angela: Eventually, I just had to leave the room. I guess I was just exhausted from a lack of sleep.

More Examples

This excerpt reviews different TV shows and calls one, Black-ish, very funny.

  • We have a soft spot for “Silicon Valley,” which keeps getting better. And we admired how “Black-ish” confronted hot-button issues while still managing to be bust-a-gut funny. –OC Register

This excerpt uses the expression to describe a humorous play.

  • “A Christmas Story” — The Musical: You might not shoot your eye out but you could bust a gut at this retelling of Ralphie Parker and family’s unforgettable holiday.  –Chicago Sun Times


The phrase bust a gut is another way to describe hysterical laughter.