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Champing at the Bit (Origin, Meaning, Examples)

What does “champing at the bit” mean? If you are naturally impatient, you may have heard the expression ‘champing on the bit.’ We frequently use this expression without understanding its origins or proper application.

Before we get into the finer details of this expression, it’s worth noting that ‘champing on the bit’ is also spelled ‘chomping on the bit.’ Champ and Chomp are interchangeable words, but champing is the proper use.

Champing at the bit
Champing at the bit

What does “champing at the bit” mean?

The phrase “champing at the bit” refers to the behavior of a racehorse before the race as it prepares to start. When someone is “champing at the bit,” it refers to their inability to exhibit restraint, and are restless or impatient. It can also refer to feeling anxious or anticipatory.

Origin of the expression

We split the expression into two halves to better understand its origin.

The word “champing,” which is the first component, comes from an old Middle English term that describes a horse grinding its teeth.

This word is about 600 years old. It is mostly used to describe a horse chewing down on its bridle when restrained. Usually used in the context of horse racing, this emphasizes the restless behavior of a horse before it is set off for the race. 

The bit, which is a piece of iron held in a horse’s mouth between its teeth and across its tongue, is the second part. The horse rider uses it to direct and control the animal.

Champing vs. Chomping

To chomp is to chew or bite something.

When we connect the word chomp to the phrase ‘champing on the bit,’ we get the action of the horses chomping or biting the metal (bit) in their strap.

Champing is the correct word to use in the context of this idiom because it has no figurative meaning. As a result, when we use the term champing, it loses its literal meaning of a horse chomping on the bit. Instead, it conveys eagerness or anxiety for something to happen but is restrained from doing it, mostly by circumstances they cannot control.

How to correctly use the expression

This entire phrase is an adjective and can be used both with and without hyphenation. Like any other adjective, it is used to describe a noun.

It can refer to any situation where we are thinking about an upcoming event that makes us restless, impatient, or eager. As for spelling it right, always remember to spell it with an ‘A’ like that of a champion, instead of an ‘O’. [It’s Not “Chomping At The Bit,” It’s “Champing At The Bit” (thecontentauthority.com)

Examples of how to use the expression


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About the author

Dalia Y.: Dalia is an English Major and linguistics expert with an additional degree in Psychology. Dalia has featured articles on Forbes, Inc, Fast Company, Grammarly, and many more. She covers English, ESL, and all things grammar on GrammarBrain.

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