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, giving an appearance that they will do something more aggressive, but they usually don’t. Indeed, 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.
Anyways, 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 are examples of this idiom being used in sentences:
- Drew is all bark and no bite because he keeps talking about how he’s gonna go to the gym and get in shape, but never does.
- Mia said she would clean the dishes days ago, but they are still sitting in the sink. She is all bark with no bite.
If you want to see more dog related sayings, or just animal phrases in general, then consider checking out our list. Woof!