What Does Beating Around the Bush Mean?

Beating Around the Bush Meaning

Definition: To avoid talking about something directly.

The idiom stop beating around the bush is used when one person wants to tell another to stop avoiding the true point of a conversation. Another variation is to beat about the bush.

Origin of Beating Around the Bush

In the past, hunters who wanted to catch birds would literally beat around a bush in order to scare the birds out from the dense leaves. After the birds came out of the bush, the hunters could catch them more easily. In this sense, beating around the bush was just a lead up to the true goal of the hunt, and not the exciting part.

The earliest written use of a variation of this phrase was around the year 1400, when it was used in an anonymous poem called Generydes: A Romance in Seven Line Stanzas.

Butt as it hatfi be sayde full long 1 agoo,
Some bete the bussh and some the byrdes take,

Examples of Beating Around the Bush

bitting around the bushHere is an example of the idiom being used in a conversation between a young woman and her mother.

Daughter: I have some big news to tell you.

Mother: What is it?

Daughter: Well, before I tell you, I want you to promise you won’t be angry.

Mother: Fine. I promise.

Daughter: And I want you to remember that I thought about this decision for a long time before acting on it.

Mother: Please stop beating around the bush and just tell me what you are talking about.

beat around the bush meaningIn this example, two co-workers use the expression in a conversation about who was fired.

Dave: I just found out who is getting fired.

Ben: Okay. Tell me who it is.

Dave: Fine. It’s better if I don’t beat around the bush. It’s you. I’m sorry.

More Examples

The person quoted in this excerpt uses the expression to say he wants to get directly to his main point.

  • “Listen, there’s no beating around the bush — I’m old,” Miller cracked. “You can say it. … The guys in the locker room, the best way you can lead and be a part of it is by doing it with action, by not missing practice and getting through it when it’s tough. I can definitely help.” –USA Today

In this example, the article uses the idiom in order to describe a quote that gets to the main point with no preamble.

There was no beating around the bush.

  • “NO ONE WAS FOCUSED ON THE PEOPLE IN THE BUILDING WHO WERE ON FIRE,” Friedman wrote, using a burning-building analogy, according to Bloomberg. “WE HAVE LET CUSTOMERS DIE.” –Washington Post

Summary

The English idiom beating around the bush is a way to describe talking in a roundabout way to avoid the main point. It is commonly paired with the words stop or don’t.