Bite the Bullet: What Is the Meaning of this Interesting Idiom?

The idiomatic phrase “bite the bullet” may be a phrase that you encounter frequently in everyday informal conversation and writing. Here you will find the meaning of this phrase and the information regarding its origin. You will also see some examples of how to properly use this phrase in conversations/statements and discover alternative ways to say the same phrase while still conveying the same meaning.

Bite The Bullet

Bite The Bullet Meaning

The idiomatic phrase “bite the bullet” means that someone is forced to endure a negative or painful situation because they don’t have any other choice.

Origin of this the idiom

There are several possible origins suggested for the phrase “bite the bullet.” The first suggestion was implied by a movie of the same name. In the movie, bullet casings were used to cap teeth when they were rotted or decayed, so whenever someone chewed with one in their movie they were said to be biting the bullet. The second suggestion is taken from a medical practice that existed long before the movie.

Many think the term was derived from the practice of people biting on a bullet during surgery to deal with pain. However, there is very little evidence to prove that this was practiced. Most evidence suggests that people bit on a leather strap during surgical procedures, not bullets. Regardless, the phrase first appeared in writing in the novel The Light That Failed written by author Rudyard Kipling in 1891.

“Bite The Bullet” Examples

Example Statements

A statement made by a celebrity during an interview with a well-known entertainment magazine.

  • “I just had to bite the bullet and admit my faults. For so long I denied them, but taking the time to analyze myself, I realized others were right and I needed a good bit of self-improvement.”

A statement made by someone that was suspected of a crime and was proven innocent.

  • “I fought because I was not willing to bite the bullet for something that I did not do. I am happy I fought and won. I am genuinely sorry for the family and I hope they can apprehend the right person in the future.”

Example Conversations

A conversation between a father and son.

  • Father: Your mom wants to go on a second honeymoon this year for our anniversary.
  • Son: So, what’s the problem? She deserves it for everything she does.
  • Father: I know she does, but it is expensive.
  • Son: Well, Dad, you are just going to have the bite the bullet and spend the money. She needs to get away for a while.

A conversation between two co-workers in the office

  • Co-worker 1: The project is nearly complete, but to make it by the deadline we are all going to have to work some overtime.
  • Co-worker 2: I agree. We will all just have to bite the bullet on this one and dedicate as much time as we possibly can.

Other examples: 

  • I hate going to the dentist, but I suppose I’ll just have to bite the bullet.
  • A lot of companies had to bite the bullet and lay off a lot of their employees.
  • Tour operators may be forced to bite the bullet and cut prices.
  • If the Socialists win the election, they too will have to bite the bullet.
  • It’s not easy, but as a manager, sometimes you have to bite the bullet and fire people.

Other Ways to Say “Bite The Bullet”

Like all idioms, the phrase “bite the bullet” can be said in several alternative ways. Some other ways you can say this phrase and convey the same meaning include:

  • Face the music
  • Have no choice
  • Have no other alternative

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