Dog Eat Dog

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Meaning of Idiom 'Dog Eat Dog'

A situation which is dog eat dog is one where people are in fierce and ruthless competition and willing to do anything to gain the advantage; anything goes. 1,2


The idiom dog eat dog is most often used to refer to business competition or politics. Often a noun follows the expression:

Dog eat dog world (most common)
Dog eat dog business
Dog eat dog competition
Dog eat dog market

Examples Of Use

"It's a dog eat dog world, but that doesn't mean you have to play the game."

"Do not think you have friends in politics. It's dog eat dog."

"The two companies found themselves the leaders in a dying market and are now locked in a dog eat dog contest to control the scraps."


The modern idiom directly contradicts an old Latin saying, canis caninam non est, meaning "a dog does not eat the flesh of a dog." This was first recorded in English in 1543. Thomas Fuller wrote in Gnomologia, in 1732, "Dogs are hard drove when they eat dogs." The modern idiom, which is still very popular, was in use by the early 1800's. 1,2

1. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.
2. Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.

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