Save one’s bacon

The idiom save one’s bacon is surprisingly old. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, 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 have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions that native speakers understand such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, on the ball, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. 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. We will examine the meaning of the idiom save one’s bacon, where this phrase came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

The popular expression save one’s bacon means to prevent harm, to stop someone from failing, to avoid disaster. The idiom save one’s bacon has been in use since the early 1600s, when the word bacon meant any cured pork meat. At that time, bacon was a slang term for the human body. Related phrases are saves one’s bacon, saved one’s bacon, saving one’s bacon. Other related English expressions that also mean to prevent harm or avoid disaster are the phrasal verbs save one’s neck and save one’s skin.


That doesn’t bother me at all because of all the times he saved my bacon. (The Williamsport Sun-Gazette)

Collision mitigation, namely automatic emergency braking, has saved my bacon more than once. (The Commercial CArrier Journal)

That’s right: The House Democrats whom Trump was trashing just yesterday saved his bacon on probably the single biggest piece of legislation in Congress this year, with Pelosi doing the heavy lifting. (New York Magazine)

And what gall he had by not halting a comment on how shortstop Derek Jeter saved his bacon to support a Trump Cabinet selection. (The Chattanooga Times Free Press)

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