To bite the bullet means to decide to do something difficult or unpleasant that one has been putting off or hesitating over, according to Google.

I'm not sure that I can use it when I was supposed to clean the house but I haven't done until down to the wire. For example, "Now, I need to bite the bullet and clean the house."

Only can I use the expression for making a decision or achieving something?

Thank you.

  • I would infer from your OP that you have dragged your feet in cleaning the house, something most of us have done at one time or another. If this household chore is nothing more than a routine activity that you have responded to in a tardy way, then "...[biting] the bullet" might be perceived as being a tad overstating the situation. If, on the other hand, the chore is one that demands a considerable effort and forbearance on your part then biting the proverbial bullet may well be justified. It's your call. Oct 26, 2016 at 8:28
  • 3
    I think you just need to get off StackExchange, "pull your finger out" and get on with cleaning the house :)
    – JonLarby
    Oct 26, 2016 at 9:25
  • I've just un-downgraded your question partly because it was a reasonable question and partly because I think it's very unhelpful for anyone to downgrade anything without saying why… Nov 11, 2016 at 0:37

2 Answers 2


No way is needing to clean the house bad enough for bullet biting, as should be obvious from the derivation of the phrase.

"To bite the bullet" is quite literal; it refers to very badly injured soldiers, far from any proper help and needing immediate, radical treatment - such as having a leg amputated without anaesthetics or antibiotics.

Since there is nothing else to hand, the soldier - or explorer or whatever kind of particularly rugged life-form we're talking about - bites a bullet because often, biting very hard on anything you care to mention will distract the patient from the pain being inflicted on him. Biting on anything also makes it difficult to scream and so distract the rescuers…

Anything needing someone to "bite the bullet" will be extremely painful or extremely dangerous or both. Cleaning the house is merely unpleasant.

  • 3
    Despite the fact that using the idiom is ridiculously exaggerating the severity of the situation, it is often used in scenarios such as the OP described. Keep in mind that "biting the bullet" occurs before some other unpleasant action (such as using a pocket knife to dig out a bullet), so the idiom has come to mean preparing for unpleasantness, regardless of how trivial the unpleasantness may be (relative to a real life-threatening situation).
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 11, 2016 at 1:07
  • Oh, Hot Licks; d'you think using a pocket knife to dig out a bullet is on a par with cleaning the house? I'm sorry I forgot to mention that most of the usage of "bite the bullet" has historically been misusage and could that be any excuse or defence for perpetuating that misusage? I'm really sorry that you might be right. Bugger! Nov 11, 2016 at 1:49
  • Have you ever told a child to clean up his room? Compared to that digging out a bullet is, er, child's play.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 11, 2016 at 2:00
  • Oh, good grief! Do you have the faintest idea what pain is? Try saying what you just wrote to anyone who's ever been shot… Duh! Nov 11, 2016 at 2:06
  • I have had kidney stones, surgeries, some really incredible pain due to a muscle condition. I had polio when I was 2 years old and have been in pain ever since. I know what pain is.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 11, 2016 at 2:14

Yes, "to bite the bullet" is an appropriate phrase in this context. TfD even gives the following example sentence:

I don't actually enjoy cleaning, but I bite the bullet and do it so that everything in my house isn't covered in a thick layer of dust.

Regarding the other answer: its use is by no means restricted to physically painful or life-threatening situations; that is its etymology, not its current meaning.

Another example usage from TfD:

I know she's disappointed to have not gotten her dream job, but the sooner she bites the bullet and accepts it, the sooner she can move on.

TfD's full definition of the idiom is:

To do or accept something unpleasant, often after a period of hesitation. The phrase is thought to have come from the military, perhaps because biting a bullet was a common practice for patients, due to a lack of anesthesia.

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