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Eating crow meaning

Eating crow meaning

The popular English expression “to eat crow” has a peculiar meaning that stems from a fascinating origin. It is an idiom and its words cannot be taken literally. People using this phrase are not actually eating black birds (not in my family anyway). First of all, let’s look at its idiomatic definition.

The main eating crow meanings are

  • To be humiliated or shamed
  • To be badly embarrassed by being incorrect about something you stood for strongly
  • To be forced to act in a humble way after making a mistake.
  • To admit you are wrong.
  • To accept you have been defeated or are incorrect.

Why a crow of all animals? Perhaps this is because it is not known as a delicious food source, quite the opposite. Crows are also known to eat all kinds of carrion and dead things – As opposed to cattle eating grass this is not something western thinking associates with fine dining. For most people, there is something quite disgusting about the very idea of eating crow. Throughout history, crows have been associated with death, war and plague.

There is more to this in the history of the idiom which we will get to later.

many crows in a tree
Idioms similar to the eating crow meaning

To have egg on your face also means to be embarrassed by your actions or words and to look ridiculous or like a fool.

To eat dirt can mean to suffer humiliation or insults, usually without complaint. It can also mean to feel foolish or having a sense of regret about something you said. This can also be said as – to eat your words.

To eat humble pie is to act in a humble way after it has been proven you are wrong.

crow watermelon
Example sentences with eat crow

He told his wife he could buy food at a much cheaper rate than her. He ended up spending more money than her at the market and had to go home and eat crow.

The other students said he wasn’t very clever but he aced the exam and made them eat crow.

She bragged her team was the best in the league but she had to eat crow when they lost the final game.

After being wrong about who stole from the shop, the manager had to eat crow and apologize to his employee.

After getting the advertising campaign completely wrong the company is SEO sitting in his office eating crow.

crow at the grand canyon
History of the eating crow meaning

There seem to be two main stories from the 1800s that can lay claim to the origin of the idiom to “eat crow”

The first story was published in several newspapers in the USA in 1850 –  A farmer in Lake Mahopac, New York leased rooms and had boarding for people on his property with meals. After many complaints about the sub-standard food, the farmer took offence claiming it wasn’t that bad and that he could eat almost anything. One of the boarders bet him a hat that he couldn’t eat a crow.

A crow was indeed caught and cooked up for the farmer which the boarders cheekily seasoned with a kind of scotch tobacco to make it taste as bad as possible. The farmer unhappily ate the crow while grimacing and nearly vomiting to prove his point.

The farmer was humiliated by eating the crow that they deliberately made to taste disgusting.

The second story occurs earlier in 1812 during the war between the United States and Great Britain. The tale is that an American soldier was hunting for food and accidentally went behind enemy lines and was met by a British soldier. The British soldier managed to get the American soldier’s gun and at that point forced him to take a bite out of a crow he had caught.

Once receiving his weapon back, the American soldier then turned it on the Brit and forced him to eat some of the crow as well!

crow on a fence for the idiom eat crow
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