also, hold tongue
- to keep yourself from saying something that you really want to say
- to stop one’s self from saying something rude
- telling someone to bite their tongue is a way of telling them to stop speaking before the say something unwanted
- refrain from saying something one wants to say, because the moment is inappropriate
- I had to bite my tongue when Peter said that he was hard-working.
- I always have to bite my tongue when my sister-in-law is around.
- It is better to bite one’s tongue than to say something nasty about someone else.
- I have to bite my tongue not to give my sister advise on her new baby.
- Bite your tongue! He doesn’t want to hear your opinion about everything.
- The lady officer has a very quick temper and often fails to bite her tongue in an argument.
To bite your tongue is a synonym for the idiom “to hold your tongue”. It essentially means that you are punishing your tongue for wanting to do the wrong thing.
One source dates the use of the idiom back to 1590, but there is no reference as to where it is used. The first example of the phrase used in this context is from Henry VI Part 2, by William Shakespeare. It was written in 1591.
Ready to starve, and dares not touch his own.
So York must sit, and fret, and bite his tongue,
While his own lands are bargain’d for, and sold.
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