People use this expression when they are confident that they will outrun or outdo their opponent at something.
Example: Jeff entered a cooking competition with his friend. They both were on the same team and had one hour to prepare a delicious dessert. Jeff was feeling confident and told his friend, “The others are going to eat our dust. Our chocolate cake will be the best tasting pastry here!”
In other words, Jeff was saying that they were going to do better than the other cooks in the competition.
Origin Of ‘Eat My Dust’
The origin of this phrase likely comes from racing and the fact that when people run, they might kick up dirt, or dust, into the air as they go (kind of like in the picture above). The type of terrain matters for this. For example, if people are running on concrete, there’s not going to be any noticeable dirt that gets raised into the air. A dirt road, however, is obviously dustier and will result in more dirt being lifted.
This expression alludes to a race where the person in the lead is running down the track on his way to the finish line and dust is being kicked up behind him. The other racers who are lagging behind then pass through the dirt that has been kicked up into the air. As they pass through it and even breathe it in, they are, in effect, “eating” that person’s dust.
Thus, if a person tells you: “You’re gonna eat my dust!” What they are saying is they are faster or better than you at something; they will outrun or outdo you and thus you are going to lag behind and have to “eat” their dust, similar to the racers mentioned above.
Anyways, the earliest I could find this phrase in print is from a newspaper named The World’s News, January 1909. There’s a short story from the newspaper called “John—Cowboy,” and a couple characters from the story said to one another:
“‘Can you keep up?’
‘Keep up? You-all will eat my dust,’ shrilled the boy, in a fever of excitement, and boastful.”
Another example of this idiom in print is from a magazine (I think) called Motor Age, Volume 16, 1909:
“We pounded along steadily, first along the beautiful shore road skirting Lake Erie, and then through the vineyard section near Westfield, passing a number of cars going our way and coming out victorious in several sharp battles for the lead with larger cars, none of which were anxious to eat our dust.”
I can’t find the phrase before that year, so perhaps it originated sometime around the beginning of the 20th century.
Here are two examples of this expression used in sentences.
- I’m the fastest runner in town. Once the race starts, all of you will eat my dust.
- My brother and I are really good at creating quality furniture. Soon, the other furniture shops in town will eat our dust.