Eat Your Heart Out

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Meaning of Idiom 'Eat Your Heart Out'

To eat your heart out is to feel jealous or envious of someone else's achievements or good fortune. Occasionally, it means to feel other strong emotions, especially grief, bitterness, or worry over something.1,2,3

Usage

The idiom is most often used in an exaggerated gloating but humorous way, although sometimes it is boastful and rude. When someone tells you to "eat your heart out" they are saying "you are going to be jealous (or envious)."

As a joke, the expression is often followed by the name of a famous person. In the first example below, the speaker is suggesting, humorously, that their nephew is a better performer than Justin Timberlake.

Examples:

"My nephew just got a record deal. He's a triple threat, too! Justin Timberlake, eat your heart out!"

"Eat your heart out! I just won five-hundred bucks off a scratch off card."

"She's been eating her heart out over Charles for years but he was never good for her in the first place."

Origin

The allusion is to something "gnawing at your heart." Homer uses the expression "eating his heart out" many times in the Odyssey. He also uses it in in the Illiad.

For example:

"Alone he wandered in the empty plains,
Eating his heart out with cares, shunning the path of men." - Iliad book 6

And

"There two whole nights and two whole days we lay
Eating our hearts with weariness and pain." - Odyssey book 9

Eat your heart out has its root in a Latin saying, cor ne edito, which Plutarch gave as a Parable of Pythagoras, meaning "eat not thy heart." The warning can be interpreted to mean "do not torture your soul with worry." It entered into general English usage by the 1500's to mean being consumed with worry or strong feelings. How it became a humorous taunt is unclear. 4

Sources
1. Pare, May. Body Idioms and More: For Learners of English. United States?: Mayuree Pare, 2005.
2. Bengelsdorf, Peter. Idioms in the News - 1,000 Phrases, Real Examples. N.p.: Amz Digital Services, 2012.
3. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.
4. Erasmus, Desiderius. Adages: Ii1 to Iv100 (Collected Works of Erasmus). Ed. R.A.B. Mynors. Trans. Margaret Mann Phillips. Vol. 31: U of Toronto, 1982.

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