Entries linking to frost-bite
Old English forst, frost "frost, a freezing, frozen precipitation, extreme cold," from Proto-Germanic *frustaz "frost" (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Old High German frost, Middle Dutch and Dutch vorst), from the verb *freusanan "to freeze" (source of Old English freosan "to freeze"), from suffixed form of PIE *preus- "to freeze; burn" (see freeze (v.)). Both forms of the word were common in English till late 15c.; the triumph of frost may be due to its similarity to the forms in other Germanic languages. A black frost (late 14c.) is one which kills plants (turns them black) but is not accompanied by visible frozen dew.
Old English bitan "to pierce or cut with the teeth" (class I strong verb; past tense bat, past participle biten), from Proto-Germanic *beitanan (source also of Old Saxon bitan, Old Norse and Old Frisian bita "cut, pierce, penetrate," Middle Dutch biten, Dutch bijten, German beissen, Gothic beitan "to bite"), from PIE root *bheid- "to split," with derivatives in Germanic referring to biting.
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 (one's) lip to repress signs of some emotion or reaction is from early 14c. To bite off more than one can chew (c. 1880) is U.S. slang, from plug tobacco.
To bite the dust "be thrown or struck down," hence "be vanquished, die, be slain, perish in battle" is from 1750, earlier bite the ground (1670s), lick the dust (late 14c.), which OED identifies as "a Hebraism," but Latin had the same image; compare Virgil's procubuit moriens et humum semel ore momordit.
updated on October 10, 2017