Dog-Eat-Dog and Doggy Dog – Meaning & Examples

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

The term dog-eat-dog is an example of figurative speech and has nothing to do with your furry friend. It’s a creative way to describe a competitive, unjust, and harmful setting. I immediately think of the publishing world; it’s got many great aspects but it’s totally a dog-eat-dog career choice.

Let’s unpack the meaning of the term dog-eat-dog and its origin. I’ll also show you examples of how to use this idiom in a sentence.

Dog-Eat-Dog Meaning

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines dog-eat-dog as an adjective that means marked by harsh or ruthless self-interest. You’ll find this phrase in phrases like dog-eat-dog competition and dog-eat-dog world. This self-interest is as harsh as a dog eating a dog just to survive.

When you are in a dog-eat-dog competition, you will do everything to win, even if it harms other people. Other people are also willing to be ahead at your expense when they are in a dog-eat-dog industry.

If you’ve watched or read The Hunger Games (one of my fav series), you probably noticed how the characters from different districts have to fight to the death.

Doggy Dog?

Doggy dog, when used in the phrase doggy-dog world, is an eggcorn resulting from a mishearing of dog-eat-dog.

Dog-Eat-Dog Origin

dog eat dog ngram
The trend of the term “Dog-Eat-Dog”

The expression dog-eat-dog comes from the Latin proverb, “a dog does not eat the flesh of a dog.” Now, this phrase has nothing to do with dogs. It first appeared in English print in 1543 but only got famous in 1732 in Thomas Fuller’s book entitled “Gnomologia.”

Dog-Eat-Dog Synonym

Here are other words you can use to replace dog-eat-dog.

  • Ferocious.
  • Fierce.
  • Merciless.
  • Aggressive.
  • Competitive.
  • Ruthless.
  • Every person for themselves.
  • Pitiless.
  • Vicious.

Is Dog Eat Dog Hyphenated?

Dog eat dog only uses a hyphen if it is used as an adjective. Adjectives are words that describe nouns and profiles. So, if the phrase comes before a noun, you need to hyphenate it.

A compound adjective is one that includes multiple individual words. Aside from dog-eat-dog, other examples include absent-minded, ice-cold, sky-blue, mouth-watering, and happy-go-lucky.

The phrase dog eat dog world is incorrect because it does not use a hyphen. Instead, you should say dog-eat-dog world as in “It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there.”

How Do You Use Dog-Eat-Dog in a Sentence?

Here are some examples of dog-eat-dog or dog eat dog in a sentence.

  • Commuting in the city every morning is dog eat dog to get a seat on the train or bus.
  • Beauty is a dog-eat-dog industry. You must keep up with trends for your makeup and skincare brand to survive.
  • Looking for parking every weekend is dog eat dog.
  • Commuting in the city is a dog-eat-dog competition between train passengers.
  • The actress would never enter the realm of politics because it’s a dog-eat-dog world.

Dog-Eat-Dog Summary

This post has explained the meaning of dog eat dog and examples of how to use it in a sentence. Use this expression to describe a competitive environment where people need to cause harm or be unfair to others.

This idiomatic expression is suitable for professional, social, and economic contexts. But I hope you don’t experience being in a dog-eat-dog environment so much that it becomes a normal part of your vocabulary!