Bust one’s chops and lick one’s chops

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Bust one’s chops and lick one’s chops are two idioms that are in common use, and may be confusing. We will examine the meanings of the expressions bust one’s chops and lick one’s chops, where these terms came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

The idiom to bust one’s chops has two meanings. First, bust one’s chops may mean to exert oneself, usually said when one has put a lot of effort into something. Second, bust one’s chops may mean to nag or criticize someone in an annoying fashion, often by exercising a petty amount of authority over that person. The word chops has a secondary meaning that is not familiar to many English speakers. Chops may mean the sides of the face.

To lick one’s chops means to anticipate an upcoming pleasure or to relish something. The expression lick one’s chops may literally mean to lick one’s lips or it may be used metaphorically. Again, the word chops in this case means the sides of the face, derived from the Old English word chaps meaning jaws.


“You’re still gonna bust my chops because I’ve got no way not to expose to you that I’m 52.” (The Sunday Express)

If you want, you can call this shameless self-promotion and bust my chops for doing it, and in the meantime, I’m going to have fun with it and see what happens. (The Kitsap Sun)

I eat a pizza-pie-slice’s worth, lick my chops like a drooling Bulldog, and call my friend Marie. (The New Jersey Monthly)

So when I saw the pic of the fellows at Alpha Gamma Rho in what amounts to their 2017 yearbook photo, my first inclination was to lick my chops like the dude in the tiger suit on the right. (The San Luis Obispo Tribune)

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