English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

In a recent exchange with a highly eloquent friend (we were discussing a particularly peculiar episode he has pointed to me in a book) he replied to my comments on the episode with an idiom I've never heard before (being an ESL guy). He said literally "Not biting, eh?". What does this mean?

share|improve this question
why didn't you ask him? – Louis Rhys Jun 23 '11 at 2:45
I did, he took it as me denying I was not biting, the reaction I only completely understood after I asked this question – zvolkov Jun 23 '11 at 19:17
up vote 20 down vote accepted

"Not taking the bait", from fishing, meaning someone offered you a conversational opening (or an invitation to an argument) and you didn't follow up.

share|improve this answer

To bite in this context means "to respond to a provocation or temptation". The phrase is understood to refer to a fish biting a baited hook, or possibly to Eve biting into the forbidden fruit.

So in context, something had happened that your friend expected to elicit a response from you. When you didn't respond as expected or intended, he remarked that you were "not biting".

share|improve this answer

The other answers are great. Another way it's used is when I read a provocative article (as JSB suggests) and in response I'd say "Ok, I'll bite." I then offer my thoughts on the subject.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.