bite off more than can chew

bite off more than one can chew

Meaning

  • try to do more than one is able to do
  • undertake a promise one cannot accomplish
  • attempt to do something which is hardly achievable
  • to start or promise something to do more than one can accomplish

Example Sentences

  1. By accepting two part-time jobs, he is clearly biting off more than he can chew.
  2. It feels like I bit off more than I could chew when I promised to complete this worksheet in one day.
  3. I would like to suggest you that don’t bite off more than you can chew by accepting the job in Alaska while winters.
  4. The anaconda bit off more than it could chew. It just killed a big cattle but couldn’t swallow it.
  5. I am sure, she is biting off more than she can chew by promising to solve the difficult puzzle in few minutes that I couldn’t since last three days.

Origin

The proverb is supposed to be originated in America and the oldest written records of the phrase can be traced from 1870s. For example in a book named ‘Western Wilds, and the Men Who Redeem Them’ written by John Hanson Beadle which is originally published in the 1877.

The snippet from ‘Western Wilds’

Our folks was all agin the war from the start. I was down as Manchester the day the hauled down the stars an’ stripes, an’ sez I, ‘Men, you’ve bit off more’n you can chaw;’ an’ they laughed at me.

Although, the expression perhaps has older origins because it’s related to biting food and biting too much at once that cannot be comfortably chewed, unveils one’s greed and stupidity.

It is also believed that the term was derived from the trend of chewing solid cakes of tobacco during 1800s in western America.

Please share your thoughts about the origin of this idiomatic expression.

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