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The meaning and origin of the expression: A barking dog never bites

A barking dog never bites

What's the meaning of the phrase 'A barking dog never bites'?

The proverb 'a barking dog never bites' isn't really about dogs. It puts forward the opinion that people who are loud and threatening don't back up their threats with action.

What's the origin of the phrase 'A barking dog never bites'?

This is an old English saying and one of the many proverbs that were collected by the Tudor courtier John Heywood.

Heywood's glossary of proverbs Thersytes, circa 1550, which he co-authored with the French writer Joannes Ravisius Textor, contains this text:

Great barking dogges, do not most byte And oft it is sene that the best men in the hoost Be not suche, that vse to bragge moste.

The meaning and origin of the phrase 'A barking dog never bites'.The meaning here is clear; braggarts may make the most noise but they aren't the most effective in action.

Dogs outdo even horses as the animals most used in English phrases and sayings, especially early ones. These include:

A dog is a man's best friend

As fit as a butcher's dog

Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war

Dog days

Dog in the manger

Dog's b*******

Dog's breakfast

Dog's dinner

Don't keep a dog and bark yourself

Eye of newt and toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog

Go to the dogs

I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips

In the doghouse

Let sleeping dogs lie

Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun

Raining cats and dogs

Shaggy dog story

The hair of the dog that bit you

The mutt's nuts

The tail wagging the dog

Top dog

You can't hold with the hare and run with the hounds

You can't teach an old dog new tricks

See also: the List of Proverbs.

Gary Martin - the author of the website.

By Gary Martin

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