1. Machinery.
    1. a removable drilling or boring tool for use in a brace, drill press, or the like.
    2. a removable boring head used on certain kinds of drills, as a rock drill.
    3. a device for drilling oil wells or the like, consisting of a horizontally rotating blade or an assembly of rotating toothed wheels.
  2. the mouthpiece of a bridle, having fittings at each end to which the reins are fastened.
  3. anything that curbs or restrains.
  4. the blade or iron of a carpenter’s plane.
  5. the cutting part of an ax or hatchet.
  6. the wide portion at the end of an ordinary key that moves the bolt.

verb (used with object), bit·ted, bit·ting.

  1. to put a bit in the mouth of (a horse).
  2. to curb or restrain with, or as with, a bit.
  3. to grind a bit on (a key).
  1. take the bit in/between one’s teeth, to cast off control; willfully go one’s own way: He took the bit in his teeth and acted against his parents’ wishes.


  1. a small piece or quantity of anything: a bit of string.
  2. a short time: Wait a bit.
  3. Informal. an amount equivalent to 12½ U.S. cents (used only in even multiples): two bits; six bits.
  4. an act, performance, or routine: She’s doing the Camille bit, pretending to be near collapse.
  5. a stereotypic or habitual set of behaviors, attitudes, or styles associated with an individual, role, situation, etc.: the whole Wall Street bit.
  6. Also called bit part. a very small role, as in a play or motion picture, containing few or no lines.Compare walk-on(def 1).
  7. any small coin: a threepenny bit.
  8. a Spanish or Mexican silver real worth 12½ cents, formerly current in parts of the U.S.
  1. a bit, rather or somewhat; a little: a bit sleepy.
  2. a bit much, somewhat overdone or beyond tolerability.
  3. bit by bit, by degrees; gradually: Having saved money bit by bit, they now had enough to buy the land.
  4. do one’s bit, to contribute one’s share to an effort: They all did their bit during the war.
  5. every bit, quite; just: every bit as good.
  6. quite a bit, a fairly large amount: There’s quite a bit of snow on the ground.

noun Computers.

  1. Also called binary digit. a single, basic unit of information, used in connection with computers and information theory.
  2. baud.


  1. simple past tense and a past participle of bite.

verb (used with object), bit, bit·ten or bit, bit·ing.

  1. to cut, wound, or tear with the teeth: She bit the apple greedily. The lion bit his trainer.
  2. to grip or hold with the teeth: Stop biting your lip!
  3. to sting, as does an insect.
  4. to cause to smart or sting: an icy wind that bit our faces.
  5. to sever with the teeth (often followed by off): Don’t bite your nails. The child bit off a large piece of the candy bar.
  6. to start to eat (often followed by into): She bit into her steak.
  7. to clamp the teeth firmly on or around (often followed by on): He bit hard on the stick while they removed the bullet from his leg.
  8. Informal.
    1. to take advantage of; cheat; deceive: I got bitten in a mail-order swindle.
    2. to annoy or upset; anger: What’s biting you, sorehead?
  9. to eat into or corrode, as does an acid.
  10. to cut or pierce with, or as with, a weapon: The sword split his helmet and bit him fatally.
  11. Etching. to etch with acid (a copper or other surface) in such parts as are left bare of a protective coating.
  12. to take firm hold or act effectively on: We need a clamp to bite the wood while the glue dries.
  13. Archaic. to make a decided impression on; affect.

verb (used without object), bit, bit·ten or bit, bit·ing.

  1. to press the teeth into something; attack with the jaws, bill, sting, etc.; snap: Does your parrot bite?
  2. Angling. (of fish) to take bait: The fish aren’t biting today.
  3. to accept an offer or suggestion, especially one intended to trick or deceive: I knew it was a mistake, but I bit anyway.
  4. Informal. to admit defeat in guessing: I’ll bite, who is it?
  5. to act effectively; grip; hold: This wood is so dry the screws don’t bite.
  6. Slang. to be notably repellent, disappointing, poor, etc.; suck.


  1. an act of biting.
  2. a wound made by biting: a deep bite.
  3. a cutting, stinging, or nipping effect: the bite of an icy wind; the bite of whiskey on the tongue.
  4. a piece bitten off: Chew each bite carefully.
  5. a small meal: Let’s have a bite before the theater.
  6. a portion severed from the whole: the government’s weekly bite of my paycheck.
  7. a morsel of food: not a bite to eat.
  8. the occlusion of one’s teeth: The dentist said I had a good bite.
  9. Machinery.
    1. the catch or hold that one object or one part of a mechanical apparatus has on another.
    2. a surface brought into contact to obtain a hold or grip, as in a lathe chuck or similar device.
    3. the amount of material that a mechanical shovel or the like can carry at one time.
  10. sharpness; incisiveness; effectiveness: The bite of his story is spoiled by his slovenly style.
  11. the roughness of the surface of a file.
  12. Metalworking. the maximum angle, measured from the center of a roll in a rolling mill, between a perpendicular and a line to the point of contact where a given object to be rolled will enter between the rolls.
  1. bite off more than one can chew, to attempt something that exceeds one’s capacity: In trying to build a house by himself, he bit off more than he could chew.
  2. bite/snap someone’s head off, to respond with anger or impatience to someone’s question or comment: He’ll bite your head off if you ask for anything.
  3. bite the bullet. bullet(def 7).
  4. bite the dust. dust(def 21).
  5. bite the hand that feeds one, to repay kindness with malice or injury: When he berates his boss, he is biting the hand that feeds him.
  6. put the bite on, Slang.
    1. to solicit or attempt to borrow money or something of value from.
    2. to press for money, as in extortion: They found out about his prison record and began to put the bite on him.

  1. Bachelor of Industrial Technology.


  1. a small piece, portion, or quantity
  2. a short time or distance
  3. US and Canadian informal the value of an eighth of a dollar: spoken of only in units of twotwo bits
  4. any small coin
  5. short for bit part
  6. informal way of behaving, esp one intended to create a particular impressionshe’s doing the prima donna bit
  7. a bit rather; somewhata bit dreary
  8. a bit of
    1. rathera bit of a dope
    2. a considerable amountthat must take quite a bit of courage
  9. a bit of all right, a bit of crumpet, a bit of stuff or a bit of tail British slang a sexually attractive woman
  10. bit by bit gradually
  11. bit on the side informal an extramarital affair
  12. do one’s bit to make one’s expected contribution
  13. every bit (foll by as) to the same degreeshe was every bit as clever as her brother
  14. not a bit or not a bit of it not in the slightest; not at all
  15. to bits completely apartto fall to bits


  1. a metal mouthpiece, for controlling a horse on a bridle
  2. anything that restrains or curbs
  3. take the bit in one’s teeth, take the bit between one’s teeth, have the bit in one’s teeth or have the bit between one’s teeth
    1. to undertake a task with determination
    2. to rebel against control
  4. a cutting or drilling tool, part, or head in a brace, drill, etc
  5. the blade of a woodworking plane
  6. the part of a pair of pincers designed to grasp an object
  7. the copper end of a soldering iron
  8. the part of a key that engages the levers of a lock

verb bits, bitting or bitted (tr)

  1. to put a bit in the mouth of (a horse)
  2. to restrain; curb


  1. the past tense and (archaic) past participle of bite

noun maths computing

  1. a single digit of binary notation, represented either by 0 or by 1
  2. the smallest unit of information, indicating the presence or absence of a single feature
  3. a unit of capacity of a computer, consisting of an element of its physical structure capable of being in either of two states, such as a switch with on and off positions, or a microscopic magnet capable of alignment in two directions

verb bites, biting, bit or bitten

  1. to grip, cut off, or tear with or as if with the teeth or jaws
  2. (of animals, insects, etc) to injure by puncturing or tearing (the skin or flesh) with the teeth, fangs, etc, esp as a natural characteristic
  3. (tr) to cut or penetrate, as with a knife
  4. (of corrosive material such as acid) to eat away or into
  5. to smart or cause to smart; stingmustard bites the tongue
  6. (intr) angling (of a fish) to take or attempt to take the bait or lure
  7. to take firm hold of or act effectively upon
  8. to grip or hold (a workpiece) with a tool or chuck
  9. (of a screw, thread, etc) to cut into or grip (an object, material, etc)
  10. (tr) informal to annoy or worrywhat’s biting her?
  11. (often passive) slang to cheat
  12. (tr often foll by for) Australian and NZ slang to ask (for); scrounge from
  13. bite off more than one can chew informal to attempt a task beyond one’s capability
  14. bite the bullet to face up to (pain, trouble, etc) with fortitude; be stoical
  15. bite someone’s head off to respond harshly and rudely (to)
  16. bite the dust See dust (def. 11)
  17. bite the hand that feeds one to repay kindness with injury or ingratitude
  18. once bitten, twice shy after an unpleasant experience one is cautious in similar situations
  19. put the bite on someone Australian slang to ask someone for money


  1. the act of biting
  2. a thing or amount bitten off
  3. a wound, bruise, or sting inflicted by biting
  4. angling an attempt by a fish to take the bait or lure
  5. informal an incisive or penetrating effect or qualitythat’s a question with a bite
  6. a light meal; snack
  7. a cutting, stinging, or smarting sensation
  8. the depth of cut of a machine tool
  9. the grip or hold applied by a tool or chuck to a workpiece
  10. dentistry the angle or manner of contact between the upper and lower teeth when the mouth is closed naturally
  11. the surface of a file or rasp with cutting teeth
  12. the corrosive action of acid, as on a metal etching plate

“small piece,” c.1200; related Old English bite “act of biting,” and bita “piece bitten off,” probably are the source of the modern words meaning “boring-piece of a drill” (1590s), “mouthpiece of a horse’s bridle” (mid-14c.), and “a piece bitten off, morsel” (c.1000). All from Proto-Germanic *biton (cf. Old Saxon biti, Old Norse bit, Old Frisian bite, Middle Dutch bete, Old High German bizzo “biting,” German Bissen “a bite, morsel”), from PIE root *bheid- “to split” (see fissure).

Meaning “small piece, fragment” is from c.1600. Sense of “short space of time” is 1650s. Theatrical bit part is from 1909. Money sense in two bits, etc. is originally from Southern U.S. and West Indies, in reference to silver wedges cut or stamped from Spanish dollars (later Mexican reals); transferred to “eighth of a dollar.”


computerese word, 1948 abbreviation coined by U.S. computer pioneer John W. Tukey (1915-2000) of binary digit, probably chosen for its identity with bit (n.1).


past tense of bite.


Old English bitan (class I strong verb; past tense bat, past participle biten), from Proto-Germanic *bitan (cf. Old Saxon bitan, Old Norse and Old Frisian bita, Middle Dutch biten, Dutch bijten, German beissen, Gothic beitan “to bite”), from PIE root *bheid- “to split, crack” (see fissure).

To bite the bullet is said to be 1700s military slang, from old medical custom of having the patient bite a lead bullet during an operation to divert attention from pain and reduce screaming. Figurative use from 1891; the custom itself attested from 1840s. To bite (one’s) tongue “refrain from speaking” is 1590s. To bite the dust “die” is 1750 (Latin had the same image; cf. Virgil: procubuit moriens et humum semel ore momordit). To bite off more than one can chew (c.1880) is U.S. slang, from plug tobacco.


c.1200, from bite (v).


  1. To cut, grip, or tear with the teeth.
  2. To pierce the skin of with the teeth, fangs, or mouthparts.


  1. The act of biting.
  2. A puncture or laceration of the skin by the teeth of an animal or the mouthparts of an insect or similar organism.

  1. The smallest unit of computer memory. A bit holds one of two possible values, either of the binary digits 0 or 1. The term comes from the phrase binary digit. See Note at byte.

The smallest unit of information. One bit corresponds to a “yes” or “no.” Some examples of a bit of information: whether a light is on or off, whether a switch (like a transistor) is on or off, whether a grain of magnetized iron points up or down.

In addition to the idiom beginning with bit

  • bit by bit
  • bite off more than one can chew
  • bite one’s nails
  • bite one’s tongue
  • bite someone’s head off
  • bite the bullet
  • bite the dust
  • bite the hand that feeds you

also see:

  • a bit
  • champ at the bit
  • do one’s bit
  • every bit
  • not a bit
  • quite a bit
  • take the bit in one’s mouth
  • two bits

In addition to the idioms beginning with bite

  • bite off more than one can chew
  • bite one’s nails
  • bite one’s tongue
  • bite someone’s head off
  • bite the bullet
  • bite the dust
  • bite the hand that feeds you

also see:

  • bark is worse than one’s bite
  • put the bite on
  • sound bite

Also seebitten.

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