A dead face lying the ground in a dust cloud

Bite the dust

Meaning: To die

Originated in: 🇮🇱 Israel

Original quote: עָפָ֥ר יְלַחֵֽכוּ (Hebrew)

Earliest attestation: Psalm 72:9 (circa 971 B.C.)

“Biting the dust” is a way to refer to someone dying. It is rather flippant and matter-of-fact. It is typically used in reference enemies’ deaths in battles or other violent conflicts, where the individuals are not usually known. Rather than their deaths being emotional tragedies in such situations, they are simply a statistic of the enemy’s weakening force and almost celebrated since they were trying to kill you.

It is essentially macabre humor referring to someone falling down dead. When he falls, his face will hit the ground, and his mouth will typically make contact with the dirt—thus appearing as though he’s eating the ground.

Despite its dark tones, it has a long history, like war itself. Its earliest attested usage is in Psalm 72, written either by King Solomon of Israel or his father around the time of his coronation in 971 B.C. The second-earliest is in the Illiad in the late 800s B.C. The earliest English usage of the exact phrase “bite the dust” was by Tobias Smollett, in his 1750 book, Adventures of Gil Blas of Santillane. Yet despite its presence in such great literary works, it is likely that the phrase’s most well-known usage was still made in 1980.