Olivetti’s whisper was cold. “You sure this time?” Langdon didn’t bite. “We need a map. One that shows all the churches in Rome.”

—Angels & Demons

Bite has a meaning of taking the bait fish-wise but I don't see it fit in here. It just seems it mean Langdon just hold his tongue and turn the attention to other stuff in this context. What does it mean actually?

  • What is the context? We need more context, but reading the line it seems bite means to accept a suggestion or an offer Jul 6, 2014 at 12:06
  • The context is basically Landgon got the wrong place in the first try and they failed to catch the killer and now Olivetti(the operation commander) was making sure Langdon was not wrong again.
    – user49119
    Jul 6, 2014 at 12:10
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    I think Olivetti's "You sure this time?" is a bait. If he had answered this probably a trick question, he would've been tricked, i.e. taken the bait. Jul 6, 2014 at 12:11
  • to accept, believe, etc. something, especially when someone tries hard to persuade you to accept or believe it. e.g. They tried to sell us a fake Picasso, but we didn’t bite. oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/american_english/… Damkerng T. is right.
    – Kinzle B
    Jul 6, 2014 at 12:13
  • Here is the rest of the page for reference.
    – Dangph
    Jul 6, 2014 at 12:21

3 Answers 3


If Olivetti's tone was mocking and he was trying to provoke a reaction, then bite meaning taking the bait would make sense. I haven't read the book, so I couldn't say if that was the case. Otherwise I would just assume it was bad writing. Dan Brown is a notoriously clumsy writer. As a learner of English, you probably shouldn't be reading him ;-)

  • 3
    You may not like Dan Brown's prose style, but his command of English is vastly superior to almost all people who might ever need to ask a question on ELL (and most answerers). A lot of native speakers find it highly "readable", which is why he's sold so many books. The idea that reading his stuff might hinder non-native speakers in their attempts to become fluent in English is nothing more than misplaced intellectual snobbery. No different to pouring scorn on Harold Robbins or Jeffrey Archer just because they're not writing "high literature". Certainly bite here is perfectly idiomatic. Jul 6, 2014 at 15:12
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    @FumbleFingers, who said anything about high literature? I do think that language learners should consume fun pop culture content. I do that myself. I watch a lot Japanese anime dubbed into French. It's not exactly high brow stuff. Did you read the page I linked to? What do you make of things like "the curator froze, turning his head slowly"? That's kind of confusing, don't you think? Do you have a better explanation for what "Langdon didn’t bite" meant? Did you notice the winking emoticon at the end of what I wrote? What do you suppose that meant?
    – Dangph
    Jul 6, 2014 at 15:32
  • 1
    On the specifics, it's not at all unreasonable to freeze (one's entire body, which might previously have been, for example, walking hurriedly) at the same time as slowly turning one's head. And the idiomatic use of bite here is pretty unambiguous even with just what I can see. Langdon didn't allow himself to be provoked into defending himself from the implication that since he's obviously been wrong on some earlier point, he might also be wrong this time. Jul 6, 2014 at 15:45
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    @FumbleFingers, no, of course not, don't be silly. I said I watch anime, which 100% spoken discourse. Anyway, the site is complaining that there are too many comments and that we should take this to chat, which I don't want to do because I have to go. Bye, and have a great day!
    – Dangph
    Jul 6, 2014 at 16:07
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    @Fumble - I think Dangph's remark here was meant to be tongue-in-cheek.
    – J.R.
    Jul 6, 2014 at 21:47

With so little context, it's hard to say exactly what the phrase means in this specific situation, but I think you have the right idea.

“You sure this time?” sounds like a taunt. Someone that bites on a taunt gets irked, or gets sidetracked into an argument. Someone that doesn't "bite" keeps his original train of thought, and focuses on the matter at hand.

The phrase could also be used when alluding to a lie. If Evan broke a window, but then pointed at his little brother, saying, “I didn't break the window, Michael did!” Someone that bites on the lie might start upbraiding Michael, but someone who doesn't bite can see through the lie, and leaves the fault where it belongs.


"You sure this time?” Langdon didn’t bite.

Olivetti is questioning Langdon's credibility, it sounds like Langdon was wrong about something before... - he is asking if Langdon has made [another] mistake.

Langdon didn’t bite.

Is exactly as you think, it's a sideways reference to him not 'taking the bait', the bait being Olivetti's criticism - Olivetti is trying to get a reaction out of Langdon; Langdon simply ignores him and changes the subject: "We need a map. One that shows all the churches in Rome.

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