What Does "Eat Your Heart out" Mean?
"Eat your heart out" is an English idiom that is usually spoken by someone as a way of asserting some sort of superiority over the person to whom he or she is speaking. There is usually some implication that the person who is being addressed in this manner should be jealous of the speaker for some reason. In some cases, the phrase is used to compare the speaker to someone who is extremely skilled or noted for the action that the speaker is referencing. The meaning of the phrase emanates from the fact that someone eating out his heart is considered to be consumed by frustration.
In the English language, idioms are used as a way for speakers to add some color and expressiveness to conversation with others who are familiar with the meanings of the phrases. These meanings can often wildly diverge from the literal meanings of the words they contain. Instead, meanings of idioms evolve through popular usage within a culture.
When someone uses this phrase, it is meant as a derisive insult to the person that is being addressed. The speaker who uses this phrase may also be boasting of his or her success in addition to putting down someone else. For example, someone might say, "My burgers are better than the ones that you made, so you can eat your heart out." In many ways, the first part of that sentence says literally what the second half implies.
This phrase can also be used in reference to someone who is actually not in the same room as the speaker. It is often used as a way to compare the speaker to a famous person by exaggerating the speaker's accomplishments. As an example, consider the sentence, "I sang that song so beautifully; Mariah Carey, eat your heart out." The person who is speaking is comparing her singing ability to that of a famous singer, even if she might be nowhere near as good.
Obviously, this is an idiom that strays far from the literal meaning of its words. Telling someone to literally eat their heart out would be a rather morbid direction to give. The meaning of the phrase is derived from the fact that someone eating their heart out, in a figurative sense, is suffering. For this reason, a person using the phrase wants someone else to know that he or she has been outdone.
My mother is exceptional at Southern cooking, and even though her dishes generally contain a lot of fat and salt, they are delicious. She cooked up a meal of fried chicken, biscuits, and gravy for our new neighbor, and we could tell that she loved the food.
After saying, “Mmmm!” multiple times and making faces that showed her enjoyment, she said, “Paula Deen, eat your heart out!” She thought my mother's food could go up against the famous chef's cooking and win.
Of course, my mother was thrilled with the compliment. She loves Paula Deen, and several of her recipes came from her cookbook.
I participated in a talent show at my local mall last year. I knew that I was a good singer, but I didn't have a whole lot of confidence. What I lacked in stage presence, I made up for in singing ability.
I sang a Kelly Clarkson song, and after I finished, I was thrilled when one of the judges yelled, “Kelly Clarkson, eat your heart out!” I knew that she would be casting her vote in my direction.
I did win the talent show, and I was relieved. I knew from her choice of idiom that the one judge loved me, but I wasn't sure that the others were sold.
@wavy58 – It does sound like a terrible thing to say. To me, the violence of it is worse than the pride in the statement.
You might as well say to someone, “Pull out your intestines and snack on them.” It's the same idea. Eat your internal organs and slowly kill yourself while suffering immense pain.
I much prefer the expression, “In your face!” It gives the same gesture as, “Eat your heart out,” but it does so without the gruesome suggestion.
I would only use any sort of prideful expression playfully, though. I might say it to my sister during a game, but I wouldn't say it to someone I barely knew.
I think that this expression is rude and boastful, so I have never used it. I know that pride goes before a fall, and I am almost certain that if I ever became confident enough in my abilities to use this phrase, I would soon be embarrassed by something.
I recall my sister's first soccer game and how a mean girl on the other team yelled, “Eat your heart out!” after they won. My sister was so upset, and the girl laughed at her as she cried.
Maybe that has scarred me and turned me against this phrase. For whatever reason, I hate it and I refuse to use it.
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