cut one’s teeth

to gain first experience


cut one’s teeth = erste eigene Erfahrungen sammeln



“German Formula 1 driver Sebastian Vettel CUT HIS TEETH as a test driver for the BMW team. When he took part in the Friday practice session for the Turkish GP in 2006, he became the youngest driver to take part in a Grand Prix meeting, at the age of 19 years and 53 days.”

The Independent

Did you

cut one’s teeth

- to learn or do as a beginner or at the start of one’s career

American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language


When infants begin to get their first set of teeth, the teeth “cut” through the gums (also called teething). Thus to cut one’s teeth on something is to learn something early or at the start. The phrase dates back to the mid-17th century.


Many famous people cut their teeth in jobs completely unrelated to their eventual success:

Madonna – Dunkin’ Donuts Employee
Michelle Pfeiffer – Grocery Store Employee
Harrison Ford – Carpenter
Sandra Bullock – Waitress & Bar tender
Angelina Jolie – Funeral Director
Jim Carrey – Factory Cleaner
Brad Pitt - Chicken Costume Wearer
Beyoncé - Salon Floor Sweeper
Nicole Kidman - Massage Therapist
Julia Roberts - Ice Cream Scooper


- sink one’s teeth into something = to start to do something with lots of energy and enthusiasm

- by the skin of one’s teeth = to barely succeed at something

- grind (or gnash) one’s teeth = to complain angrily about something

- grit one’s teeth = to accept a difficult situation and deal with it in a determined way

- lie through one’s teeth = to lie about something that you know is completely false

PRACTICE OWAD in an English conversation, discuss something like:

“He CUT HIS TEETH working in the mailroom, now he’s CEO.”

HERZLICHEN DANK to all readers helping me keep OWAD alive with single or monthly donations at:

Paul Smith

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