What does the idiom "Barking up the wrong tree" mean?

You are wondering about the meaning of the phrase Barking up the wrong tree, maybe you heard it in a TV show, movie or theater play. Although this idiom is not used very often, it enriches your capacity of expression and strengthens communication. In which case is the expression Barking up the wrong tree used and what is its meaning?

Meaning of "Barking up the wrong tree"

Meaning

The idiom ‘barking up the wrong tree’ is used to describe a situation where someone makes an incorrect assumption or misinterprets the facts, and, as a result, wastes their time and effort. It suggests that they are seeking satisfaction in all the wrong places, hence why they are ‘barking up the wrong tree’.

Etymology

The origin of the idiom ‘barking up the wrong tree’ is difficult to ascertain with any degree of certainty, but some argue that it can be traced back to old hunting stories. According to this explanation, when a hunter was tracking an animal and the animal suddenly veered off and disappeared, the hunter would assume that their prey was still close and continue to search in the same location, making them ‘bark up the wrong tree’.

Usage

The idiom ‘barking up the wrong tree’ is most commonly used to describe a situation in which someone has made a faulty assumption, misinterpreted the facts, and is wasting time and effort in their pursuit of satisfaction. It can also be used more generally to describe situations in which someone is expending effort on an unproductive task or pursuing a goal in a misguided way.

Example Sentences

  • He's been chasing that project for weeks, but I think he's barking up the wrong tree.
  • I don't think you're going to get what you're looking for. You're barking up the wrong tree.
  • He's been trying to get a promotion for months, but I think he's barking up the wrong tree.
  • She's been trying to get the job done for weeks, but I think she's barking up the wrong tree.

The meanings of the words in the "Barking up the wrong tree" idiom

The Global Spread of English Idioms

As English has become a global language, its idioms have spread far beyond the borders of the UK and USA. For instance, the idiom "beat around the bush" has equivalents in many other languages, such as "tourner autour du pot" in French and "dar vueltas al asunto" in Spanish. Meanwhile, other idioms have been adapted for local contexts, such as the Russian idiom "?? ???? ???????" (ne svoya rubashka), which translates to "not one's own shirt," meaning to be in an uncomfortable or unfamiliar situation.

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