"worrisome or suspenseful experience," by 1999, perhaps originally in reference to close games in sports, from the notion of biting one's fingernails as a sign of anxiety (attested from 1570s); see nail (n.) + bite (v.). Nail-biting (n.) is from 1805; nail-biter as "person who habitually or compulsively bites his fingernails" is by 1856.
also back-biting, c. 1200, bacbitunge, "the sin of secretly attacking one's character or reputation through envy," from back (adj. or n.) + verbal noun from bite (v.). The notion is of injury in a manner comparable to biting from behind. As an adjective Old English had bæcslitol; another old word for it was back-wounding (c. 1600). Related: back-bite (v.) early 14c.; back-biter (c. 1200).
"project, overhang," apparently a Shakespearean back-formation (in "Hamlet," 1602) from beetle-browed, from Middle English bitelbrouwed "grim-browed, sullen" (mid-14c.), from bitel "sharp-edged, sharp" (c. 1200), probably a compound from Old English *bitol "biting, sharp" (related to bite (v.)), + brow, which in Middle English meant "eyebrow," not "forehead." The meaning "to overhang dangerously" (of cliffs, etc.) is attested from c. 1600. Related: Beetled; beetling.
Old English biter "having a harsh taste, sharp, cutting; angry, full of animosity; cruel," from Proto-Germanic *bitras- (source also of Old Saxon bittar, Old Norse bitr, Dutch bitter, Old High German bittar, German bitter, Gothic baitrs "bitter"), from suffixed form of PIE root *bheid- "to split" (source also of Old English bitan "to bite;" see bite (v.)). Evidently the meaning drifted in prehistoric times from "biting, of pungent taste," to "acrid-tasting." Used figuratively in Old English of states of mind and words. Related: Bitterly.
c. 1200, "to torment or persecute (someone);" c. 1300, "to set a dog to bite and worry (an animal, especially a confined one, for sport)," from Old Norse beita "to cause to bite," from Proto-Germanic *baitjan (source also of Old English bætan "to cause to bite," Old High German beizzen "to bait," Middle High German beiz "hunting," German beizen "to hawk, to cauterize, etch"), causative of *bitan (see bite (v.)).
The earliest attested use is figurative of the literal one, which is from the popular medieval entertainment of setting dogs on some ferocious beast to bite and worry it. The verb also in Middle English could mean "put a horse or other domestic beast out to feed or graze," and, of persons, "to eat food," also figuratively "feast the eye" (late 14c.). Compare bait (n.). Related: Baited; baiting.
Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to split," with derivatives in Germanic "referring to biting (hence also to eating and to hunting) and woodworking" [Watkins].
It forms all or part of: abet; bait (n.) "food used to attract prey;" bait (v.) "to torment, persecute;" bateau; beetle (n.1) "type of insect; bit (n.1) "small piece;" bite; bitter; bitter end; boat; boatswain; -fid; fissile; fission; fissure; giblets; pita; pizza; vent (n.).
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit bhinadmi "I cleave," Latin Latin findere "to split, cleave, separate, divide," Old High German bizzan "to bite," Old English bita "a piece bitten off, morsel," Old Norse beita "to hunt with dogs," beita "pasture, food."
"fine, dry particles of earth or other matter so light that they can be raised and carried by the wind," Old English dust, from Proto-Germanic *dunstaz (source also of Old High German tunst "storm, breath," German Dunst "mist, vapor," Danish dyst "milldust," Dutch duist), from PIE *dheu- (1) "dust, smoke, vapor" (source also of Sanskrit dhu- "shake," Latin fumus "smoke").
Meaning "elementary substance of the human body, that to which living matter decays" was in Old English, hence, figuratively, "mortal life." Sense of "a collection of powdered matter in the air" is from 1570s. Dust-cover "protective covering to keep dust off" is by 1852; dust-jacket "detachable paper cover of a book" is from 1927.
To kick up the (or a) dust "cause an uproar" is from 1753, but the figurative use of dust in reference to "confusion, disturbance" is from 1560s, and compare Middle English make powder fly "cause a disturbance or uproar" (mid-15c.). For bite the dust see bite (v.).
late 13c., "a bite, mouthful; small piece of food, fragment," from Old French morsel (Modern French morceau) "small bite, portion, helping," diminutive of mors "a bite," from Latin morsum, neuter of morsus "biting, a bite," past participle of mordēre "to bite," which is perhaps from an extended form of PIE root *mer- "to rub away, harm."
dog sound, Old English beorc, from bark (v.). Paired and compared with bite (n.) at least since 1660s; the proverb is older: "Timid dogs bark worse than they bite" was in Latin (Canis timidus vehementius latrat quam mordet, Quintius Curtius).