bite one's tongue

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bite one's tongue (third-person singular simple present bites one's tongue, present participle biting one's tongue, simple past bit one's tongue, past participle bitten one's tongue)

  1. (idiomatic) To forcibly prevent oneself from speaking, especially in order to avoid saying something inappropriate or likely to cause a dispute.
    Synonym: bite one's lip
    • 2011, Mike Pappas, Growing Up the Greek Way in the Big Apple, page 103:
      She wanted to go see a movie called Gigi, which I was not too thrilled about. But being a gentleman, I bit my tongue and said, “Okay.”
    • 2020 June 23, John Bolton, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, New York, N.Y.: Simon & Schuster, →ISBN, page 305:
      [] my automatic tongue-biting mechanism kicked in just in time.
    • 2021 August 13, Gayle, Sara Davis, and David Pittenger, “abcdefu”, in A Study of the Human Experience Volume One[1], performed by Gayle:
      I swear I meant to mean the best when it ended / Even try to bite my tongue when you start shit / Now you're texting all my friends, asking questions / They never even liked you in the first place

Usage notes[edit]

  • Often used in the imperative mood, to admonish someone who has said something unfeeling or harsh:
    Bite your tongue! She has enough on her mind without having to worry about comments like that from you.


See also[edit]