champ at the bit

verb (used with object)

  1. to bite upon or grind, especially impatiently: The horses champed the oats.
  2. to crush with the teeth and chew vigorously or noisily; munch.
  3. to mash; crush.

verb (used without object)

  1. to make vigorous chewing or biting movements with the jaws and teeth.


  1. the act of champing.
  1. champ at the bit, to betray impatience, as to begin some action.


  1. to munch (food) noisily like a horse
  2. (when intr, often foll by on, at, etc) to bite (something) nervously or impatiently; gnaw
  3. champ at the bit or chafe at the bit informal to be impatient to start work, a journey, etc


  1. the act or noise of champing
  2. Ulster dialect a dish, originating in Ireland, of mashed potatoes and spring onions or leeks


  1. informal short for champion (def. 1)

1868, American English abbreviation of champion (n.).


“to chew noisily,” 1520s, probably echoic; OED suggests a connection with jam (v.). Earlier also cham, chamb, etc. To champ on (or at) the bit, as an eager horse will, is attested in figurative sense by 1640s. Related: Champed; champing. As a noun in this sense, attested from c.1600.

Show impatience at being held back or delayed, as in The dismissal bell hadn’t rung, but they were champing at the bit to leave. This term transfers the action of a horse that impatiently bites the bit in its mouth to human behavior. [Mid-1600s]

In addition to the idiom beginning with champ

  • champ at the bit

also see:

  • like a champ

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