Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Where does the expression "beat around the bush" come from?

share|improve this question
add comment

2 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Beat around the bush (meaning "discuss a matter without coming to the point") has been first used in 1570s; its sense has shifted from "make preliminary motions" to "avoid, evade."
See also beat the bushes, which is a way to rouse birds so that they fly into the net which others are holding.

[Reference: Etymonline and the New Oxford American Dictionary.]

share|improve this answer
2  
It means the expression came from a hunting technique, isn´t it? –  Inti Soto Feb 26 '11 at 15:52
    
But what is the root of the expression? Does it come from gardening, where the gardener would just pat the bush without cutting it, etc...?? –  Joshua Robison Feb 26 '11 at 15:52
2  
@Joshua Robison: It comes from hunting. –  kiamlaluno Feb 26 '11 at 15:53
add comment

To get birds to fly up so they can be shot, hunters sometimes employ beaters who hit the roosts with sticks. Beating the ground around the bush would also work (presumably), but would be slow and a waste of labour.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.