To save someone's bacon - Idiom of the Week

To save someone's bacon - Idiom of the Week

A few years ago, I was really in a bind. I was in line at the coffee shop, grabbing a bite to eat before a big job interview I had. I clearly didn’t plan enough time to do this, because the line for food was out the door! Thankfully, the people in line understood my situation and let me move to the front of the line. They really saved my bacon that day!


As defined in Linda and Roger Flavell’s book Dictionary of Idioms and Their Origins, “to save one’s bacon” is an idiom that means to nearly escape injury or difficulty (page 14).


Steve really saved my bacon that day by lending me some money to help me pay for an urgent car repair.


There are a couple different hypotheses as to where this idiom comes from.

The first guess is that the idiom refers to the need (at one time) to preserve the bacon supply from the dogs during the tough winter months, thus preventing starvation.

The second and perhaps more scholarly guess is the explanation that the English words “bacon” and “back” share the same Germanic root (bacon being the meat that is taken from the back and sides of a pig).

Being the linguistic nerds that we are, we much prefer this guess!

Going further down this linguistic rabbit hole, some argue that the “bacon” in the idiom is really a corruption of the Old English word for “back” (“bæc”).