What does the idiom "go to the dogs" mean?

The phrase go to the dogs is often used in English, but what does this idiom mean? When idioms are used in the right situations, they strengthen communication and enrich the language. You can communicate more effectively by learning the meaning of go to the dogs.

Meaning of "go to the dogs"


The phrase ‘go to the dogs’ is an idiom used to refer to the decline or deterioration of something or someone, typically due to a lack of care or attention. In most cases, the phrase is used to describe the gradual decline in the quality of something over time, but it can also be used in context to refer to the sudden and dramatic fall of an entity. It can be used to refer to physical items, such as a car or house, or to an abstract concept, such as an organization or economy.


The phrase ‘go to the dogs’ has its origins in the ancient Greek play by Euripides ‘Cyclops’. In the play, the main character refers to the decline of his fortunes and his home as ‘going to the dogs’. This phrase has since been adopted and is frequently used as a metaphor for decline or deterioration.


The phrase ‘go to the dogs’ is a fairly common idiom and is often used in everyday conversations. It can be used in both positive and negative contexts, with the overall sentiment of expressing decline or deterioration. For example, the phrase ‘the economy has gone to the dogs’ is commonly used to refer to the decline of an economy, while ‘the team went to the dogs after the manager left’ is a phrase used to describe the decline in the quality of a team.

Example Sentences

  • “The once thriving company has gone to the dogs since the new management took over.”
  • “My car has gone to the dogs since I stopped maintaining it.”
  • “The neighbourhood went to the dogs after they built the freeway.”
  • “The team went to the dogs after the manager left.”

The meanings of the words in the "go to the dogs" idiom

Idioms with similar meanings in different languages

"Barking up the wrong tree" is an English idiom that means to pursue a mistaken or misguided course of action. In German, the similar idiom is "Auf dem Holzweg sein," which translates to "To be on the wrong track." This idiom emphasizes the idea that when you are pursuing the wrong course of action, you are not going to achieve your desired outcome.


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