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Eat your heart out

Posted by Smokey Stover on February 07, 2006

In Reply to: Eat your heart out Posted by Lula on February 03, 2006

: I have just perused your archives, and I was unable to locate the definition for the phrase "eat your heart out." My search pulled up one reference, but I could not track it down. Can anyone help?

The phrase has probably evolved a bit since it was first spoken, and I had hoped to find a nice succinct definition in the Oxford English Dictionary. Here's what I found. "eat one's (own) heart: suffer from silent grief or vexation." Further down the page, "c. To destroy as a parasite or a corrosive. Also fig., esp. in phrases with heart...
1890 Review of Reviews II. 323/1 General Boulanger is not eating out his heart in vain regrets. 1919 M. K. BRADBY Psychoanalysis 70 Commonsense says that it is better..'to let off steam' than to 'eat your heart out'."

Nowadays you hear the phrase "eat your heart out" spoken contemptuously, sometimes as a sort of bragging. I obtained or achieved something you wanted, and you can just go ahead and be consumed by jealousy. You can gnaw at your own heart, eat it and despair. It's usually spoken a little more casually than that suggests, but does imply that it's time for you to be jealous, so there! It is also said as an apostrophe to absent individuals. Eat your heart out, Madonna, I was just told that I'm a better singer than you! (I'm not good at making up phrases that are actually realistic.) SS