Er biss nicht an.

English Translation

He avoided the bait.

anbeißen = to bite into, to take a bite of

But! The word “anbeißen” in German can also be used idiomatically to mean “to take the bait” or “to respond to an offer”. There is a variant of this in English, though it’s maybe a bit old fashioned, and I can’t say I hear it very often:

“I tried to trick those thieves into trying to steal my car while my hidden camera was running, but they didn’t bite”.

“They didn’t bite” means that they didn’t fall for the trap.


I would even go so far as to say that this is the primary meaning, or the default interpretation.

For “to take a bite”, you would normally use “abbeißen”.


I agree.
I can think of two situations for this sentence:
Two anglers talking about the giant perch eluding them.
Two salesmen talking about the customer leaving the store without buying anything.

Everything else, like Eve talking about a more clever Adam, would be
“Er biss nicht hinein.” or “Er biss nicht ab.”