It’s Not “Chomping At The Bit,” It’s “Champing At The Bit”


chomping at the bit

If you have ever attended a horse race and you noticed in the camera shots that the horses seem to be chewing on something but there isn’t any grass or any other food nearby, from this action is that the expression “champing at the bit” comes from. 

The correct way to use this phrase is “champing at the bit” not “chomping”, because this phrase refers to the word “champion”. If you were to use it in a sentence the correct spelling must be “champing”, now if you use it when speaking you could get away with saying “chomping at the bit”.

In all honesty and statistically speaking, you will see “chomping at the bit” used a lot, almost as often as “champing at the bit”, the meaning and use are the same but only one of the two is the correct form of the expression. 

Where Does “Champing At The Bit” Come From?

Etymologically speaking, the word “champing” comes from the Middle English word “chammen”. This word is currently non-existent in modern English and it means “champion”. And a “champion” is someone that acts as a militant supporter or someone that fought chivalrously on behalf of others. 

horses ready at their slots before race

So, if you made a connection to the meaning and the use of the word, I think it is clear that “champing at the bit” first appeared when referring to the champion horse that was going to compete on behalf of its owner and when getting ready to depart it was anxious to start the race and began biting the metal bit of the mouthpiece. We can also infer that the connection between “champ” and “chomp” came from the action and meaning of the word “chomp” of biting the metal of the strap.

Meaning of “Champing At The Bit”

The meaning of this phrase is to be restless or incapable of showing restraint towards something. It also means to be anxious and expectant of something. The meaning of “champing at the bit” came to be by the observation of the pre-race behavior that horses exhibit moments before they are set out to race. 

Why “Champing” And Not “Chomping”

First you need to know why was “chomping” ever used in the place of “champing”. The meaning of the word “chomp” is a bite, when someone takes a bit of something or bites unto something we can say they took a “chomp” of it. In the verb form “to chomp” is chewing or biting something and if you were to research it you will see the phrase “chomping at the bit” often as an example. 

grammarly

The word “chomp” then connected to the phrase “champing at the bit” because the horses indeed chomped or bit at the metal in their strap. This is why the phrase is commonly misspelled and used interchangeably within place of “champing”.

Another aspect that makes “champing” the correct form to use is that it is not a word with figurative meaning, it loses the literal meaning of a horse chomping and transcends into something else entirely which conveys a message of eagerness to do, to move or to anxious for something to happen. 

Synonyms Of “Champing At The Bit”

A phrase as catchy as this one is bound to have similarities with many other words with the same use. Here are some synonyms that can be used in place of “champing at the bit”:

  • Desirous
  • Enthusiastic
  • Eager
  • Impatient
  • Hopped-up
  • Antsy
  • Hankering
  • Obsessed
  • Restless
  • Engaged

Here are some examples of these words used in a sentence:

  1. They were eager to start taking dance lessons.
  2. I can see you’ve had a hankering for a long time.
  3. She was over enthusiastic, we had to tell her to calm down so we could start.
  4. The child was impatient to go home and open his presents.
  5. I always get antsy before a presentation but I do well regardless. 

The beauty of synonyms if that if you went ahead and replaced them for another the sentence will not lose its meaning. 

For example:

  • They were “champing at the bit” to start taking dance lessons.

eager sign in grass

How Do We Use “Champing At The Bit” In A Sentence

Now let’s see what is the correct way to use “champing at the bit” in a sentence. You need to know that this entire phrase works as an adjective. However, it is not a common adjective, it is what we call a “Compound Adjective” or a “Phrasal Adjective”. These can be used with or without a hyphenation and as any other adjectives these are used to describe a noun.

Here are some examples of “champing at the bit” in a sentence:

  1. I am not the type of person to be champing at the bit, I do what I have to do without feelings or emotions getting in my way.
  2. If she hadn’t been champing at the bit all weekend she would have done better at her presentation.
  3. It would have been good if they had been champing at the bit some more, that might have changed the entire performance.
  4. After months being deployed, he was champing at the bit to go back home.
  5. Sometimes champing at the bit makes all the difference.
  6. With everything happening with Covid, The Public Health system is champing at the bit for a viable solution. 
  7. The premise for the sequel had all the readers champing at the bit.
  8. I was surprised to learn I was not the only champing at the bit to get a vacation.
  9. Once big fishes learned that even a bigger fish was buying all the shares they started champing at the bit for opportunities to get in on the buying process.
  10. No one is ever champing at the bit for more work, but when talking about time off there is always a line up.
  11. She is not the champing at the bit type, I have never seen her fidget or even flinch.
  12. We had been champing at the bit for years over this and when it came to it, it was all for nothing. 
  13. You should have seen him champing at the bit, is like he was going to break away before the bell rang.
  14. If you are one to be champing at the bit, I must warn you, it is not good for your heart to let your feelings take the best of you every time. Also, if you are an anxious person it is better to take things with a grain of salt.
  15. Is not simple to use some compound adjectives, for example: “champing at the bit”.

Antonyms Of The Phrase “Champing At The Bit”

Now that we have seen these examples in order to have a rounded idea on how to properly use “champing at the bit”, let’s look at some antonyms that can be used to express the opposite of this compound adjective.

  • Aloof
  • Detached
  • Uninterested
  • Apathetic
  • Indifferent
  • Unenthusiastic
  • Hesitant
  • Reluctant
  • Half-Hearted
  • Unwilling

Here is how to use some of these antonyms:

  1. The board of directors was completely unenthusiastic about their pitch for the new product.
  2. I was half-hearted when they told me the offer was conditional to my location.
  3. He seemed unwilling to go forward with the business proposal.
  4. She was reluctant to go in public so someone else had to do the lecture on her behalf.

“Champing At The Bit” A Summary

The phrase “champing in the bit” means to be overly eager or anxious for or towards an event that is soon to occur. The correct way to use it is in the place of the adjective in the sentence, describing the noun or objects of the sentence.

“Champing” has its roots in the word “champion” and contrary to the meaning it derives from the biting of the metal strap placed on racehorses, when they are placed in their booths ready the pistol to be fired and the race to begin.

The previous connection to the horses is what also causes confusion among people when they need to decide which one to use because “chomping” is what horses do but the compound adjective of “champing at the bit” translates more into the excitement, eagerness and anxiety prior to a major event that strikes the people or person involved in it. 

woman crosses fingers eager and hopeful

This phrase then is to be used whenever we are thinking of an event about to unfold that causes the people impacted by it an impulse to “grind” their teeth at the thought of the upcoming moments as they unfold. 

And as far as the spelling part of it we are always to spell it using an “A” thinking of “champion, in order to appear as knowledgeable, given that in literature and grammar savant groups people who would write this phrase with an “O” for “chomp” are seen as inferior in their knowledge of the cultural background and the appropriate use of this phrasal adjective. 

If you have been using this phrase incorrectly don’t be discouraged, if you browse around you will find that around fifty percent of the people out there have made the same mistake and have said or written “chomping at the bit” instead of “champing at the bit”. Also, there are still many more that will continue to spell it incorrectly because they have not read this article but you will not be one of them. 

Shawn Manaher

Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of The Content Authority. He's one part content manager, one part writing ninja organizer, and two parts leader of top content creators. You don't even want to know what he calls pancakes.

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