Biting the big one

To ‘bite the big one’ is to die. But… the big one what?

Back in the '80s my friends and I would say so-and-so bit the big cookie. I don’t remember why biting a big cookie is deadly, but to bite the big cookie means biting the dust. ‘Bite the dust’ is an easy metaphor. Perhaps ‘bite the big one’ comes from it. ‘Bite the big dust’? Doesn’t really make sense.

So what is The Big One in ‘bite the big one’?

When I was a kid, it was implied dick, even though it wasn’t explicitly mentioned.

Also see

WAG - Biting the big one is an admission that death is inevitable, where biting the bullet offers a chance to survive.

I’ll agree with Darryl Lict. During my adolescence in the 60s in New York City saying that something “bit the big one” meant that it sucked in a very big way; that is, the “big one” was a big dick. I can’t recall every hearing “bite the big one” used to mean being killed. You might say someone “bit it” if they died, but I assume that referred to biting the dust.

Ditto for me in the same time period, but in West Texas.

“Big one” meant ‘dick’ in midwest in the '70’s

I always interpreted the phrase to mean:
biting: experiencing forcefully or going through with,
big one: the biggest event in one’s life-death.

Dicks weren’t part of the meaning in my experience.

Change that to central Texas in the 70s, and that would describe my experience too.

It means death to me. I don’t know specifically what “the big one” was supposed to be, but I’ll guess “dirt”, as in “taking the dirt nap.”

I’m with rbroome and Boyo Jim on this, that “bite the big one” in the sense of death is a variant of “bite the dust”. Growing up (in Ontario) in the 70s, we had lots of expressions equating to bite with oral sex, but it never occurred to me that “bite the big one” was one of them. Anyway, will look forward to our resident etymologists weighing in on it!

Western Pennsylvania, 1970’s. It was not a commonly used expression until after it turned up in a SNL sketch also involving Romaine lettuce. When it was used, it explicitly meant a penis.


I can see that those who say ‘the big one’ is a penis understand the phrase to mean ‘very bad’; but that was 20 years before we were using the phrase to mean ‘died’. (In the case of the Midwest and Texas, they’re 20 years behind the coasts anyway. :stuck_out_tongue: :smiley: ) We never used the expression to say something sucks [dick]. We just said that that something sucked (or sucked big-time).

I’m in my 60s and I have always used/heard it to mean die. I have no idea when I first heard it but I never thought it had anything to do with sex or penises.

Maybe ours had to do with the movie Grease. Danny tells Rizzo to “bite the weenie.” Perhaps the two became conflated.

Interesting. I suspect that the sense of “died” was an extension or conflation of the sense of “sucked real bad.”

For us it transmuted into “smoke the big one”. It was an all-purpose insult meaning “go die”, or “go blow someone”.

California, 70’s… It was dual purpose!

When something was no good, we’d say, “That bites balls.” That morphed to “That bites,” and variants. “Bites the weenie.” “Bites the big weenie.” And “Bites the big one.”

But when someone died, “He bit it,” or “He ate it.” When he died in a flashy way, “He bit it big time.” And one variant of that was, “He bit the big one.”

It had both meanings – ingesting noisome substances as an accusatory criticism, and dying – depending on context.

This is a good example of how words or phrases mean whatever we use them to mean and while you can often camp some sort of logic on top of that, it’s really not the point.

In my experience, any sort of generic “big one” refers to a dick, but it is also my experience that when people say something like, “he bit the big one,” they mean he died, not that he bit a dick.

Regardless of the meaning of the parts of a phrase, the phrase in it’s entirety means what you use it to mean. Nothing more, nothing less.

Another vote for Death.

I won’t even try to guess where/when I picked it up, or from whom.
The play of dick/death was probably in there, but it was always a death, and almost always an unexpected, would-never-have-expected, death.

The video of that sketch is here, at about 4:35. The original airdate was 01/21/1978