When someone tells you to stop “beating around the bush,” you might imagine them asking you to stop hitting a shrubbery with a stick. But in reality, this phrase is meant to be taken figuratively, and it refers to the act of avoiding a topic or being indirect. On this page, we will delve into the meaning of this idiom, learn about its origin, and more.
Table of Contents
- Meaning of “Beating Around The Bush”
- Origin of “Beating Around The Bush”
- Examples and Sentences
Meaning of “Beating Around The Bush”
The act of avoiding the main topic of discussion. It’s to talk in a roundabout way in order to delay the point of a conversation. This can lead to the listener becoming annoyed and result in a breakdown of communication. To help you understand the meaning of beating around the bush, let’s go over three important parts:
What It Means
1. The phrase refers to someone who is deliberately avoiding the main point in a discussion.
2. It involves using evasive or vague language instead of being straightforward.
3. This indirect manner of speaking can cause frustration for the listener, as they may have difficulty understanding the speaker’s intentions.
Example: “Stop beating around the bush and tell me what you think of my new haircut.”
Similar: This idiom is similar to “cut to the chase” and “dancing around the topic,” as they both refer to someone that is not being direct with their words
If you need an alternative way of telling someone they are “beating around the bush,” then consider using one of these synonyms:
1. Cut to the chase
2. Skirt around the issue
3. Dance around the topic
4. Speak in circles
5. Dodging the question
6. Cut to the heart of the matter
7. Get to the point
There are several synonyms for beating around the bush, such as “getting to the point,” “cutting to the chase,” and “skirting around the issue.” All of these phrases indicate the act of sidestepping the primary concern at hand.
Origin of “Beating Around the Bush”
It’s believed that this expression comes from hunting. In medieval times, hunters would apparently hire men to assist them during a hunt. The job of these hired helpers was to flush out any animals that were hiding in the bushes. How did they accomplish this? By beating the bushes with something like a wooden stick, perhaps along with some loud shouting as well. All the rustling and noise would scare out any birds and other animals from the cover of the brush, making them easy targets for the hunters.
But why beat around the bush, instead of hitting it directly? Likely because it was safer to keep distance from the brush. You see, while the more harmless creatures, like birds, rabbits, and squirrels, would be driven out by the noise, so too would the more dangerous ones. For example, a wild boar could be stealthily lurking in the bushes. This animal has potential to cause serious harm with their sharp tusks, so it’s best to keep away.
So then, to avoid the threat of being seriously injured, these hired helpers might have chosen to keep their distance and beat around the bush instead of going with a more direct approach. This is similar to how the idiom is used today—it refers to someone who talks around their point instead of getting directly to it.
The expression “beating around the bush” is hundreds of years old. The earliest appearance of it in print comes from a book (or poem) called Generydes: a Romance in Seven-Line Stanzas, around the year 1440:
“Some bete the bussh and some the byrdes take.”
An alternate form of this idiom goes “beating about the bush.” An early recording of the phrase with the word “about” in it comes from a poem written by George Gascoigne, 1572:
“To thinke bowe he abused was, alas my heart it bleedes:
He bet about the bushe, whiles other caught the birds …”
Examples and Sentences
First let’s look at a few examples that illustrate the usage of this phrase. Here is the first set of sentences:
1. They kept beating around the bush instead of explaining how their parent’s car got a dent.
2. Rather than giving a direct answer as to why he was late for work, he chose to beat around the bush and avoid the question.
3. I’m currently busy, so if there’s something important you need to say, then stop beating around the bush and tell me.
Now we will look at a second set of sentence examples, only this time the phrase will be replaced with a synonym. Take note that there are various ways to express how someone should get to the point instead of being vague.
1. He decided to cut to the chase and ask his boss directly for a promotion during their meeting.
2. The phone’s battery was low, so she made sure not to skirt around the issue at hand.
3. Spare me the unnecessary details and get directly to the point of what you are saying.
Notice how in each of these examples, the phrase is used to express the idea of being direct rather than evasive. The implication is to avoid any irrelevant details in a discussion and instead focus on the most important part. Now, there are more phrases to read about on here, so consider exploring the ones below to learn what they mean.