Beating Around the Bush – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking for a way to tell someone to get to the point? If so, you could ask them to stop "beating around the bush" and tell you what they want. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


The meaning of the expression "beating around the bush" is to tell someone that they are misleading you in the conversation. It's a way of telling someone to get to the point and that you're feeling frustrated with the conversation. It can also mean that you think they are stalling for something.

People can "beat around the bush" when they want to avoid talking about a certain subject because it might make them look bad or make you angry. They may also beat around the bush when trying to avoid talking about something uncomfortable with you.

When you tell someone to stop beating around the bush, you're asking them to get to the point of their conversation or statement. It's a way of telling them that you think they are waffling on and wasting your time.

Example Usage

“Stop beating around the bush, Mike. You know what I’m asking, so get to it; I want to hear what you have to say, not this nonsense.”

“Why are you beating around the bush with this? I asked you a simple question, and I expect a simple answer, not a life lesson on some other topic I don’t have any interest in hearing.”

“Keep beating around the bush with this, and I’m going to start getting angry. I want a straight answer from you about the situation.”

“I tried to ask Jane about the issue, but she just kept beating around the bush with her answers. I don’t know if she’ll ever let us know what’s happening with her.”

“Don’t you find it annoying when you ask someone a simple question, and they beat around the bush with their answer?”

“We’re beating around the bush here. Let’s just address the elephant in the room and get everyone on the same page for once.”


The phrase "beating around the bush" originates from the medieval poem "Generydes - A Romance in Seven-line Stanzas," published circa 1440, where it appears as follows.

"Butt as it hath be sayde full long agoo,

Some bete the bussh and some the byrdes take.

The earliest version I can find that adds 'about' to 'beat the bush' is in George Gascoigne's Works, 1572:

He bet about the bush, whyles other caught the birds."

The original use of the expression in English is "beat about the bush." The American version of "beat around the bush" is gaining popularity, with Google reporting the shift in use going back to at least the 1980s.

Phrases Similar to Beating around the Bush

  • Give the run around.
  • Wild goose chase.
  • Pass the buck.

Phrases Opposite to Beating around the Bush

  • Forward and direct.
  • Straight to the point.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Beating around the bush.
  • Beat around the bush.

Ways People May Say Beating around the Bush Incorrectly

The phrase has nothing to do with bushes or beatings. The bush is the subject matter, and “beating” around it means being evasive. It’s incorrect to use the phrase with any gardening reference.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Beating around the Bush

You can use the expression “beating around the bush” when you want to tell someone that you know they are diverting the conversation, and they should get to the point.

It’s a way of telling them that you know they are hiding something or intentionally avoiding talking about it, and they should tell you what’s going on. The phrase suits social and professional use.

Use it at the office when you’re asking a colleague or subordinate why they are being evasive or long-winded with their answer. Use it at home to tell your partner to get to the point and tell you what they want.

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