Bite

The good, strong, common word “bite” has a lovely perfect form, “bit”.  Other words spelled “bit” abound.  The first two have to do with cutting off a little piece as with teeth or blade (Germanic *biti-z strong masculine) or the little piece that has been cut off (Germanic *biton- weak masculine).  The obsolete third meaning of “bit” originates in the world of containers along with “butt” or “bottle”.  Meaning four, a unit of information, abbreviates “binary digit”.  The verb “to bit” means to put the bit into a horse’s mouth, and that bit is from the first noun meaning.

The verb “bite” comes directly from the Germanic *biton- weak masculine of the second noun meaning.  Here’s your little treat for the day: in Lancashire, the elder perfect form “bote” can still be heard instead of the younger form “bit”, which is either a reverse-engineering from the participle “bitten” or a sort of rhyming assimilation to follow the sound pattern of other verbs like “light” and “fight”.

All of which is to say “Here’s the verb, the noun will be in the next entry”.

  • 02.046 He took a big bite off a sheep’s leg he was roasting,
  • 04.034 “Slash them! Beat them! Bite them! Gnash them!
  • 04.033 but the goblins called it simply Biter.
  • 04.036 biting
  • 04.041 and hated it worse than Biter if possible.
  • 04.048 “Biter and Beater!” they shrieked;
  • 05.033 Toothless bites,
  • 05.055 Gnaws iron, bites steel;
  • 06.012 and biting
  • 06.064 biting
  • 07.115 I haven’t had a bite since breakfast.’
  • 16.006 and snow will bite both men
  • 18.024 and no weapon seemed to bite upon him.

 

“bit, n.1.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2016. Web. 8 June 2016.

“bit, n.2.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2016. Web. 8 June 2016.

“† bit, n.3.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2016. Web. 8 June 2016.

“bit, n.4.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2016. Web. 8 June 2016.

“bit, v.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2016. Web. 8 June 2016.

“bite, v.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, June 2016. Web. 8 June 2016.

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