What Does Throw Someone Under the Bus Mean?

Throw Someone Under the Bus Meaning

Definition: To assign blame to another person for a mistake.

Origin of Throw Someone Under the Bus

The exact origin of this idiom is unclear. Most sources agree that it appeared sometime in the 1980s or early 1990s. Some say it was especially popular in the contexts of sports and politics.

This expression carries the connotation of blaming another person for one’s own mistake. Usually, the person assigning the blame was a friend with or allies with the person he or she puts the blame on. Therefore, this expression also implies sudden betrayal.

Early variations of this phrase included to push one under the bus or to put one under the bus.

Another expression, you’re either on the bus or under it, might be related. Sports team managers would encourage team players to get on their tour bus in a timely fashion by telling them to hurry up or die.

It is possible the idiom comes from the literal meaning. If a person throws someone under a real bus, it would certainly hurt that person, and be a sudden betrayal.

Examples of Throw Someone Under the Bus

throw under the bus originIn the following example, two friends are discussing a betrayal that one of them experienced.

Kerry: I’m still trying to recover professionally from the time my coworker threw me under the bus.

Christine: What do you mean?

Kerry: I was the only one with a key to the office building. My coworker called me, crying and said she had forgotten her laptop in her cubicle. She asked me to let her in and not tell anyone. She said she was already in trouble, and if the boss knew, she could get fired. She said she needed this job to feed her young children. Anyway, long story short, the boss found out I let her in, and she said it was all my fault. She claimed I had forced her to enter against her wishes.

throw him under the busIn this dialogue, two friends are discussing whether or not to go to a party.

Arlena: Hey! I didn’t want to go to Arnold’s party, so I told him you were too tired to go and that you asked me to also not go.

Nyima: Don’t blame me for you not wanting to go! You always throw me under the bus like that. I’m going to go to the party and tell him I have no idea what you were talking about.

More Examples

The example below is from an article about immigration reform.

  • As Reyna put it: “We want to make sure our community is not thrown under the bus.” –OC Register

This excerpt is from an article about a school district that needs to fire some of its newer teachers.

  • For starters, we see from the board vote how willing unions are to throw their younger, more energetic and lower-paid members under the bus. Because of the “Last in, first out” system that teachers unions ardently defend, the potential layoffs are based on seniority. –OC Register

Summary

The expression throw someone under the bus means to suddenly blame a friend or ally for an error for personal gain.

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