This term was popularized in the 1930s by American Westerns. Imagine the scrawny morose coroner standing on the crude walkway watching two gunslingers facing in the street. They fire and one man drops in the dusty road.
“Another one bites the dust,” the coroner mutters with a smile as he walks out to measure the body.
This euphemism is commonly used to mean someone or something has died, or in some cases failed as in this example:
“The merger didn’t go through, so another one bites the dust.”
But where did it come from?
“They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him and his enemies shall lick the dust.”
The term is also believed to have appeared in Homer’s epic poem The Iliad in 700 B.C. But because the original was written in Greek, the English translation didn’t appear until the 19h century by Samuel Butler. His version contains a reference to ‘bite the dust’ in these lines:
“Grant that my sword may pierce the shirt of Hector about his heart, and that full many of his comrades may bite the dust as they fall dying round him.”
Because no one is positive of the accuracy of the translation it’s difficult to cite this as the first literary source with any surety.