What does the idiom "make a dog's dinner" mean?

The expression make a dog's dinner is one of the idioms that often finds a place in our literature and enriches our language. However, its meaning is not fully understood, so it is sometimes used in the wrong situations. Please review the explanation carefully for the correct use of the make a dog's dinner idiom.

Meaning of "make a dog's dinner"


The phrase “make a dog’s dinner” is an idiom used to describe a situation where someone has made a complete mess of something, often to comical or disastrous results. It can refer to a situation where someone has bungled a task beyond redemption, or where the person has created more confusion and disruption than their original goal required. It is also often used to describe someone who has made a complete mess of something they were trusted to take care of.


The phrase “make a dog’s dinner” is an English idiom of unknown origin, though it has been around since at least the early eighteenth century. It is believed that the phrase may have been derived from an earlier phrase which meant “to make a muddle”. Alternatively, it may have been inspired by the sight of a dog consuming an unappetizing and messily arranged meal. The phrase is used across a number of English speaking nations and cultures, and is widely known in its modern form.


The phrase “make a dog’s dinner” is most commonly used as an expression of frustration and annoyance when someone has made a mess of something, often something that the speaker had entrusted the other person to handle. It is usually used in a humorous manner to vent one’s ire over a particularly incompetent job of work done by another. It can also be used more serious contexts to refer to disastrous or catastrophic results from a particular effort. In any case, it is most commonly used to refer to someone who has made a complete mess of something, either due to incompetence, carelessness, or intentional disregard for expectations or standards.

Example Sentences

  • “He was meant to do a simple job, but he managed to make a dog’s dinner of it!”
  • “That new employee really made a dog’s dinner of the project. I don't think she'll be around for much longer.”
  • “I can't believe they managed to make a dog’s dinner of a task so simple as this

The meanings of the words in the "make a dog's dinner" idiom

Idioms with similar meaning

"Don't judge a book by its cover" is an English idiom that means you shouldn't make assumptions about someone or something based solely on its appearance. In Japanese, the similar idiom is "Hana yori dango," which translates to "Dumplings rather than flowers." This idiom means that substance is more important than appearance.


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