champ at the bit » chomp at the bit

Classification: English – nearly mainstream

Spotted in the wild:

  • Electronics makers chomping at the bit. (Taipei Times, Mar 16, 2004)
  • Well, regarding one congregation in the previously referenced sextet, the previously referenced Grace Church in Orange Park, a casual visitor sitting in on a parish meeting would get the impression they are chomping at the bit to leave the Episcopal Church USA. (soc.motss, Aug 20, 2005)
  • “But I wouldn’t say [they’re frustrated], I think our players are just chomping at the bit to go.” ( Sport, August 19, 2005)
  • “I personally have never had the chance to see Fallen Angels on anything larger than a 27-inch television,” Marchetti told The Reeler. “So I’m kind of chomping at the bit for that one.” (The Reeler, NYC, Aug 19, 2005)
  • The Urbana City Council apparently isn’t chomping at the bit to consider a resolution advising the University of Illinois to retire Chief Illiniwek. (The News-Gazette, August 18, 2005)

Treated at some length in my Language Log piece of 28 March 2005, “Chomping at the Font”. The verb “champ” was specialized in the idiom “champ at the bit” ‘be restive’, while “chomp” continued to be used in its munching sense. Then the much more frequent and less specialized “chomp”, which still makes sense in the context, replaced “champ” more and more.

| link | entered by Arnold Zwicky, 2005/03/29 |


  1. 1

    Commentary by Arnold Zwicky , 2005/03/30 at 7:29 pm

    For a bit more on “chomp”, see the first two comments on “font of knowledge”.

  2. 2

    Commentary by d. b. , 2005/08/07 at 1:54 am

    Though less common, I have also observed instances of “chafing at the bit.” It looks like the same process as “champ” –> “chomp”

    “chafe at the bit” has 413 ghits to “champ at the bit”’s 922 ghits
    “chafing at the bit” has 986 ghits to “champing at the bit”’s 35.9k ghits

    You are full of enterprise and may chafe at the bit if you can not do enough, if
    your present position doesn’t give you enough scope, or if your superiors …

    “I remember chafing at the bit when I was young because everybody knew where I
    was,” she said. But she likes it now that it’s her kids who are growing up in ..

    Not everyone likes the book and we know that but we also know thousands who do
    and are chafing at the bit to read the sequel (which is coming). …

  3. 3

    Commentary by David Puente , 2006/07/21 at 1:05 pm

    My father insists it is “chaffing at the bit,” with 2 f´s, a usage not mentioned above. Any thoughts? I always thought chomping was correct…

  4. 4

    Commentary by Fred Puente , 2006/07/21 at 3:07 pm

    How about this one? Is it “hanging on tenter hooks” or “tender hooks” ?

    I’m in the same boat on this one as the “chomping” vs “chaffing” at the bit!


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