What does the idiom "Beat around the bush" mean?

You are wondering about the meaning of the phrase Beat around the bush, 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 Beat around the bush used and what is its meaning?

Meaning of "Beat around the bush"


‘Beat around the bush’ is a popular English idiom which means to avoid talking directly about a topic or situation by moving away from the subject or speaking in a vague manner. It is also used when someone is failing to explain something clearly.


The phrase ‘beat around the bush’ originates from the 15th Century proverb ‘to beat about the bush’ which was used to describe the practice of hunting birds by moving branches and foliage around a shrub to flush birds out in the open. This proverb was later adapted to describe how humans can avoid talking about an uncomfortable topic by evading conversation and not being direct.


The ‘beat around the bush’ idiom is used as a criticism when someone does not give a direct or straightforward explanation. It is used to accuse someone of being vague and not saying what they really mean or want to say. It can also be used to describe a situation when someone is hesitating to talk about something due to its sensitivity or because they do not want the other person to react negatively.

Example Sentences

  • He kept beating around the bush and never answered my question.
  • His boss was getting frustrated as he kept beating around the bush.
  • Stop beating around the bush and tell me what happened.
  • She kept beating around the bush and I never got a proper answer.

The meanings of the words in the "Beat around the bush" idiom

The universal role of idioms

"Kill two birds with one stone" is an English idiom that means to accomplish two things with a single action. In French, the similar idiom is "Faire d'une pierre deux coups," which translates to "To kill two birds with one stone." This idiom highlights the efficiency of completing two tasks with one action.


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