bark up the wrong tree

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

An allusion to a situation in which a hunting dog mistakenly identifies the tree up which it has chased an animal and positions itself at the base of another tree, barking upward at the branches.

Verb[edit]

bark up the wrong tree

  1. (idiomatic) To do, believe, or pursue something wrong or inappropriate; to take the wrong approach; to follow a false lead; to blame or rebuke the wrong person.
    • 1894, Robert Barr, In the Midst of Alarms, ch. 21:
      You're not the first man who has made such a mistake, and found he was barking up the wrong tree.
    • 1915, John Buchan, The Thirty-Nine Steps, ch. 10:
      They all went into the house, and left me feeling a precious idiot. I had been barking up the wrong tree this time.
    • 1922, William MacLeod Raine, Man Size, ch. 19:
      "We want West. He's a cowardly murderer—killed the man who trusted him." . . .
      "Of course we may be barking up the wrong tree," the officer reflected aloud. "Maybe West isn't within five hundred miles of here."
    • 2008 September 2, Ken Russell, "Let my life flash before you, in paperback," Times Online (UK) (retrieved 1 Oct 2010):
      After three failed marriages I realised that I may have been barking up the wrong tree and should abandon the search for the perfect wife.

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