What Does Bring Something Out of the Woodwork Mean?

Bring Something Out of the Woodwork Meaning

Definition: To draw attention to something that had been hidden; to unexpectedly bring previously silent voices or concerns to the forefront.

This expression means to reveal information that was previously unknown or hidden. The fact that something emerges from seemingly nowhere (woodwork) is the focus on this phrase.

People often wait until they are granted permission—either explicitly or by the example of someone else doing it—to come out with new information; this could be because the ideas or information is unpopular.

Origin of Bring Something Out of the Woodwork

out of the woodwork definitionWoodwork applies to all things made of wood, but it most commonly refers to the wooden details of a house, such as moldings, stairways, and furniture. Early examples of the expression refer to insects crawling out of the woodwork, including this excerpt from a July 1887 edition of Vermont Phoenix:

  • Somewhere about the middle of the night, when the bats were softly whirring about the room, the cockroaches rustling on the floor, and the centipedes crawling out from the rotten woodwork and thatch…

This carried on for several decades before changing to the metaphorical meaning of people emerging from somewhere hidden.

Examples of Bring Something Out of the Woodwork

meaning of bring out of the woodworkIn the modern day, people use this expression to talk about people coming out with new information, as in,

  • Once one woman came out with claims of sexual assault by this man, twelve others were brought out of the woodwork offering their stories.

-or-

  • The scandals would most certainly be brought out of the woodwork if Jones became president.

It also refers to people themselves emerging from nowhere,

  • When he won the lottery, a lot of people suddenly came out of the woodwork claiming to be his close friend.

More Examples

  • …many groups on the liberal-left are considering what and how they must change to better mobilize the progressives whom Sanders brought out of the woodwork. –The American Prospect
  • Even if his candidate falls short of the nomination, “the 58-county organization that he has created, and the number of people that he has brought out of the woodwork to get engaged or involved, will have re-energized the conservative movement in California.” –The Sacramento Bee

Summary

To bring something out of the woodwork is to bring it out of hiding and into the forefront.