A person who is full of talk, but behind that talking there is little or no action.
Example: Jacob repeatedly says that he will find a job, but it’s been over a year now and he still does not have one. It looks like he is all bark and no bite.
The Origin of ‘All Bark And No Bite’
The origin of this phrase likely comes from a dog’s behavior, how they oftentimes will bark, but not follow it up with any action (like biting, for example). Thus, as the saying goes, the dog is all bark and no bite.
Dogs bark for multiple reasons, one of which is when they see someone they do not recognize. They might bark at the person and give an appearance that they are going to do something more aggressive, but they generally don’t. No further action is taken by the dog; it’s just making a lot of noise. This concept is thus applied to people who act in a similar way—they talk about doing something (making a lot of noise like a dog would), but they end up doing nothing.
There appears to be a slightly older saying (or at least, it appears in print at an earlier date than this one) that goes ‘his bark is worse than his bite.’ The earliest I could find this particular expression in print is from The Colonial Times newspaper, November 1829:
“Still, ‘his bark is waur than his bite.’ “
As for the phrase all bark and no bite, it looks to have come later, and may be an alternative form of this earlier expression. It appears in print as early as October 1853, in The Banner newspaper:
“You see he was all bark and no bite. Well, it is the same with men and women, and boys and girls, as it is with dogs.”
Here is an example of the idiom being used in a sentence:
- Drew is all bark and no bite. He keeps bragging about some cool new dance moves that he’s learned, but he won’t ever show them to me.
- Mia has said for the fourth time that she’s going to clean out her closet, but she has yet to do so. Mia is all bark with no bite.
Tip: This is a dog related phrase. We have a list of dog sayings on here that you can check out to find more like it.