bite one's nails

bite (one's) nails

1. Literally, to chew on one's fingernails and shorten them. I wish I didn't bite my nails, but it's been such a hard habit to try to break. My sister gets regular manicures to keep from biting her nails.
2. To nervously await something. I've been biting my nails ever since I submitted my application for my first-choice college.
See also: bite, nail

bite one's nails

Exhibit signs of anxiety, impatience, or nervousness, as in We'll be biting our nails till the jury comes back. Biting one's fingernails is a time-honored sign of emotional tension. The Roman satirist Horace described it about 35 b.c.: "As he wrought his verse he would often ... gnaw his nails to the quick" ( Satires, Book 1).
See also: bite, nail