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Bite one’s tongue

  • Bite one’s tongue is an idiom that is used as a verbal phrase and as an retort. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. We will examine the definition of bite one’s tongue, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.


     

    To bite one’s tongue means to hold back from speaking, to refrain from saying something that will annoy, hurt or rile the listener. In this case, the idea is to hold the tongue between one’s teeth to stop the words from escaping one’s mouth. Related phrases are bites one’s tongue, bit one’s tongue, biting one’s tongue. The expression bite your tongue is a response to someone’s untoward comment. In this case, the phrase seems to encourage the speaker to punish his tongue for uttering something unpleasant. The phrase bite one’s tongue dates to the 1590s.

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    Examples

    Instead of complaining about her decision, he bit his tongue. (The Washington Post)

    This explains why he bit his tongue when Mr. Trump promised to end military exercises on the Korean peninsula, in return for a vague commitment to denuclearize. (The Globe and Mail)

    And when Sessions supported the nomination of anti-civil-rights attorney Eric Dreiband to be in charge of DOJ’s civil rights division and Brian Benczkowski, a former attorney for a Russian bank, to run the criminal division at DOJ, I bit my tongue — hard. (The Bangor Daily News)

    I never responded, but just bit my tongue and thought to myself: “It’s in your hands Lord.” (The Berkshire Eagle)

    “Do you remember the last time you bit your tongue and didn’t speak up because you didn’t want to rock the boat?” (The Business Insider Australia)


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