People use the expression eat my dust when they feel confident about outperforming their opponent at something.
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, people running on a concrete road probably aren’t going to kick up any noticeable dirt into the air. On the other hand, people running on a dirt road might.
The imagery for this expression typically involves a person running in a race. The leading racer is sprinting and dust is being kicked up behind him. The slower racers lagging behind end up passing through this dust and breathe it in. In effect, they are “eating” the leading racer’s dust.
So… how old is this phrase? The earliest I could find it in print is from a newspaper called The World’s News, January 1909. There’s a short story from in this newspaper titled “John—Cowboy,” and a couple characters from the story exchange these words:
“‘Can you keep up?’
‘Keep up? You-all will eat my dust,’ shrilled the boy, in a fever of excitement, and boastful.”
Here is a second example of this idiom in print, this one coming from a magazine 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 from before 1909, it’s possible that it originated at or around that year.
Here are two examples of this expression used in a sentence:
- I’m the fastest runner in town. When the race starts, you will all eat my dust.
- My brother and I are proficient at creating quality furniture. After we finish setting up shop, the other furniture stores in town will be eating our dust.