Beat Around the Bush: Meaning of a Medieval Term Still Used Today

, Staff Writer
Updated May 21, 2021
Beat around the bush meaning
    Beat around the bush meaning
    leremy / iStock / Getty Images Plus, bagira22 / iStock / Getty Images Plus, modifications made by YourDictionary
    Used under Getty Images license

Have you ever “beat around the bush” in a conversation? You probably have, it's pretty easy to do. Learn what it means to “beat around the bush” by exploring its definition and origin. And for a little added fun, see how this phrase is used in sentences.

Beat Around the Bush Meaning

“Beat around the bush” might sound like a strange idiom, but once you think about the meaning and history, it makes a lot of sense. When someone “beats around the bush,” they aren’t getting to the point of the conversation. Instead, they are talking around the issue or taking an indirect root to their point.

While it can be highly annoying, it happens in conversation all the time. This is especially true when someone is trying to talk about a sensitive subject or doesn't want to tell the truth. They might approach the conversation too cautiously and “beat around the bush” instead of getting right to the point.


Synonyms for Beat Around the Bush

When you can’t make sense of the “beat around the bush” idiom, it can be helpful to look at other similar phrases or meanings.

  • not cutting to the chase

  • dragging your feet in conversation

  • approaching a conversation indirectly

  • talking around the main topic

  • not speaking directly

  • speaking in a roundabout way

  • avoiding the important point

Beat Around the Bush Origin

“Beat around the bush” has been part of the English language for a long time. Its earliest appearance is in a Medieval poem found in Generydes, a Romance in Seven-Line Stanzas by W. Aldis Wright. While this book was edited and published in the 1800s, the poem itself is from the 1440s. The line featuring the idiom reads:

“Some bete the bussh and some the byrdes take.”

As you can see, “beat around the bush” was a hunting term. Hunters would send people out into the forest to flush out the game from bushes and trees. These individuals would beat around the bush instead of hitting the bushes themselves to stir up the game.

Why beat around the bush? Well, beating on the bush could be deadly if you kicked up a swarm of bees or a boar. It’s kind of similar to the meaning. Going straight to the point of the conversation can sometimes be dangerous.


Using Beating Around the Bush in a Sentence

Now that you have a good understanding of the history and meaning of the idiom, it’s time to see it in action. View a few different sentences using beat around the bush.

  1. Could you stop beating around the bush and get to the point.

  2. Dan didn’t give me a straight answer about my request; he just beat around the bush.

  3. You don’t have to beat around the bush with me; just tell me what I did wrong.

  4. Please don’t beat around the bush; just tell me why you are upset.

  5. Rather than beating around the bush, I’d prefer you just cut to the chase.

  6. You don’t have time to beat around the bush; your phone’s battery is going to die soon.

  7. My boss never gives me a straight answer; he always beats around the bush.

  8. It’s important to tell me exactly what you want out of this transaction. If you beat around the bush, neither of us will be satisfied.

  9. I know you were in my room. Now quit beating around the bush and tell me why.

  10. Why do you always beat around the bush? It’d be nice if you just told me straight.


Beat Around the Bush Idiom

Now is not the time to “beat around the bush.” In writing, you only have so many words. Therefore, you’ll want to get right to your point. However, if you’re trying to avoid telling your sister you broke her favorite bracelet, beating around the bush can buy you a bit of time. Ready to explore more idioms? Start with another common phrase, "raining cats and dogs." Or, you might want to learn what a moot point is. Then, check out examples of science idioms. And if that’s not precisely your flavor, then you can look into food idioms.