People use the expression “eat my dust” when they are confident that they will outperform their opponent at something.
Example: Jeff entered a cooking competition with his friend. They are on the same team and they have one hour to prepare a delicious dessert for the judges. Jeff thought for sure that they were going to win, so he told his friend, “The other teams are going to eat our dust. Nothing will taste better than chocolate cake!”
In other words, he was confident that he and his friend would outdo the other cooks in the competition.
The Origin Of ‘Eat My Dust’
The origin of the phrase “eat my dust” 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 much 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 and on his way to the finish line, dirt is being kicked up behind him. The other racers who are lagging behind thus have no choice but to pass through this kicked up dust. As they run through it and breathe it in, they are, in effect, “eating” that person’s dust.
Of course, the person in the lead doesn’t have to worry about any dust. Only the people who are behind do. Thus, if someone says: “You’re gonna eat my dust!” What they are saying is they are faster or better than you at something; they believe they’re going to outdo you and thus you will lag behind and have to “eat” their dust.
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 say 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.”
Since I cannot find this phrase before the year 1909, it’s possible that 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.