Eat one’s words

Eat one’s words is an old idiom. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common saying eat one’s words, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

Eat one’s words means to retract something one has said, to admit one has stated something that is incorrect, to admit that one has been proven wrong. Related phrases are eats one’s words, ate one’s words, eating one’s words. Eating one’s words carries the connotation of being humiliated or shamed for one’s past opinions or assertions. The expression eat one’s words is an old one; it has been traced back at least as far as the 1570s.


Just last week, I complained that the “workaholic” narrative was unfair to Lisa, but, um, I’m starting to eat my words. (Salt Lake Magazine)

Perhaps I will be eating my words – but it will not surprise me if we see President Biden working cooperatively with Republicans in the Senate and even the House to tackle at least some of the myriad challenges facing the United States. (Ukrainian Weekly)

But if you are inclined to eat your words and admit carbonara might be a modern dish — possibly even an American one — just hold on. (The Detroit News)

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