1550s, from Middle French boulette "cannonball, small ball," diminutive of boule "a ball" (13c.), from Latin bulla "round thing, knob" (see bull (n.2)). Earliest version of bite the bullet recorded 1891, probably with a sense of giving someone a soft lead bullet to clench in the teeth during a painful operation.
To adjust to unpleasant circumstances: “The severe drought is forcing everybody to bite the bullet and use less water.” Before anesthesia, people undergoing surgery would bite on a bullet to help them withstand the pain.
To accept the cost of a course of action; do something painful but necessary: Will he bite the bullet and become the leader that Philadelphia's black community wants and needs?/ The only thing John can do is bite the bullet
[1700s+ Military; fr the early surgical practice of having the patient bite hard on a bullet to divert the mind from pain and prevent screaming]
: currently bulleting up the chartsRelated Terms