All Bark and No Bite – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Is a colleague at work making threatening advances to you? Maybe they're telling you that you're no good at your job and they'll take your spot as the top salesperson this month?

If so, you could tell them that they are “all bark and no bite,” and you're not worried about their threatening posture towards you. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


If someone is "all bark and no bite," they take a threatening or boastful posture with their conversation with you. For instance, they could be telling you that they will inflict physical harm on you, but they are half your size and backing away from you.

It's a way of telling someone that you think they are bluffing with their aggressive posture and that you don't believe they will back up their words with actions.

It can also mean that the person talks a big game but they fail to follow through on what they say with their actions. When someone is all bark and no bite, it's a way of saying that they are "full of hot air," and you shouldn't take them seriously.

Example Usage

"Don't bother listening to that guy. He's all bark and no bite, and you're at no risk of him doing anything."

"That manager is all bark and no bite. He said he was going to discipline the team and then did nothing about it."

"I don't believe you, you're all bark and no bite, and I don't think you'll follow up with what you say."

"I think you're all bark and no bite, you don't have the full house, or you wouldn't have passed on that last ace."

"You talk a good game, but I think you're all bark and no bite. Let's see if your actions match your words."


Language experts are unsure of the exact origin of the expression “all bark and no bite.” However, most believe that it comes from canine behavior, where dogs bark to seem threatening or dominant and then never back up this behavior when challenged.

Instead of attacking the person or other dog, they back down from the engagement. The earliest iteration of the expression in print comes from The Colonial Times newspaper in November 1829, where it appears as the following version.

“Still, ‘his bark is waur than his bite.’ “

The modern version of the saying would only appear in print in the mid-1800s. The Banner newspaper published the current version in October 1853, where it appears in the newspaper as the following.

“You see, he was all bark and no bite. Well, it is the same with men and women, and boys and girls, as it is with dogs.”

Phrases Similar to All Bark and no Bite

  • Actions speak louder than words.
  • All talk and no action.
  • Put your money where your mouth is.

Phrases Opposite to All Bark and no Bite

  • True blue.
  • Do what you say.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • All Bark and no Bite.

Ways People May Say All Bark and no Bite Incorrectly

The phrase has nothing to do with dogs or the action of biting or barking. In this case, the "bark" are outlandish claims made by someone or threats. The "bite" refers to the person carrying through on those allegations or threats. It has nothing to do with animals or animal behavior.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase All Bark and no Bite

You can use the expression "all bark and no bite" when you describe someone who talks aggressively or in high esteem of themselves but doesn't back up their claims with actions. The phrase suits social and professional use.

At home, you could use it to describe how your son is all bark but no bite when they promise to clean out the gutters. At work, you could use it to describe a boss that threatens the staff with disciplinary action but fails to follow through on their threats.

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