What does the idiom "dog eat dog" mean?

dog eat dog is an idiom used by many writers. When idioms are used in the right place, they open the doors of effective communication and increase your descriptive power. In this way, you will be better understood. The meaning of the expression dog eat dog is also remarkable in this respect.

Meaning of "dog eat dog"


The idiom ‘dog eat dog’ is used to describe a cutthroat or competitive environment in which people are willing to do anything to get ahead - even if it means sacrificing or exploiting others. In other words, it means that when faced with the ambition to succeed, people may be willing to do anything, even to the extent of doing unethical things or taking advantage of other people. It can also be used to describe a situation in which people have to fight for their own needs and interests.


The exact origin of this phrase is a bit of a mystery. It may have first been used in the late 1700s, likely in the United States. It first appeared in print in a US newspaper in June of 1837 in an article about the Schoharie County Court of Oyer and Terminer. From the context of the article, the phrase certainly implies a competitive, cutthroat environment. In the United States, this phrase is often associated with the image of larger dogs eating other dogs, but there is no reliable evidence that this is the source of the phrase.


This phrase is used predominantly in informal settings, such as conversations between friends or family. It is not used in formal, professional settings, as it can have a negative connotation. It can be used to describe any competitive situation in which people have to fight or take advantage of each other in order to get ahead. It can also be used to talk about situations in which people have to act aggressively or selfishly in order to succeed.

Example Sentences

  • The business world can be so cutthroat these days - it's a dog eat dog world out there.
  • It's so competitive in the job market - it's a dog eat dog situation.
  • I'm afraid that in this economy, you have to be willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead - it's dog eat dog.

The meanings of the words in the "dog eat dog" idiom

Beyond the Literal: Figurative Language in Idioms

Idioms often use figurative language to convey a message that is not meant to be taken literally. For instance, the idiom "bite the bullet" means to endure a painful or difficult situation without complaint, while "hold your horses" means to be patient and wait. Other idioms, like "kick the bucket" or "pop your clogs," use euphemisms to talk about death.


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