Menu Close

Dog Eat Dog

Dog guarding dog remains

Dog Eat Dog Definition

Dog eat dog.

  • Describes a situation that it highly competitive
  • A situation where people will do anything do get ahead, even harm one another.


They idiom alludes to a metaphor where the people involved are the dogs. The competitive fight for food will lead to infighting and having to eat each other.

Dog Eat Dog Examples

  • Standup comedy is a dog eat dog world. One flat punchline and you’ll never work in this town again!
  • The tri-county bingo tournament is a dog eat dog competition. You hesitate for one second and those older ladies will wipe the floor with you every time.


TV has always been a dog-eat-dog game.

Kevin Reilly

The Mormon belief system unites curiously American pairs of opposites. A relish for the dog-eat-dog practices of the marketplace goes hand in hand with the stern obligation to ‘help thy neighbor.’

Shana Alexander

Dog Eat Dog Origin

Literary Origin

They operate not on the principle of justice but on the principle of might. They turned this country into a dog-eat-dog world. The wages they pay are arbitrary and the worker must live accordingly. If he fights back he gets a little more; if he is quiet they may try to reduce his meager stipend. In a land which is the youngest country on earth we have more windowless rooms, greater congestion, more poverty, consumption, crime, insanity than are to be seen in the cities of the Old World.

The House of Conrad, Elias Tobenkin, 1918

The earliest use in text of our idiom as we use it today appears in The House of Conrad a novel by the Russian-American journalist Elias Tobenkin.

Spiritual Origin

canis caninam non est / Dog does not eat dog

Rerum Rusticarum Libri Tres, Marcus Terentius Varro

The phrase our idiom originally stems from actually meant quite the opposite. The Latin phrase above translates to ‘dog does not eat dog’. This older idiom has a different meaning. Essentially it means one lowlife will not turn in another.

The Latin phrase is found in the text Rerum Rusticarum Libri Tres which translates to Three Books on Agriculture by the Roman scholar Marcus Terentius Varro.