throw a bone to

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An allusion to the act of throwing a bone as food to a hungry dog.


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throw a bone to

  1. (idiomatic) To provide support or assistance to, especially in one particular way or to a limited extent; to make a concession to.
    • 1875, Anthony Trollope, chapter 22, in The Way We Live Now:
      There was considerable uneasiness in the bosoms of others of the Directors. . . . [T]hey knew that Lord Alfred had sold shares, and had received the profit. . . . And if there was so much cause to fear Lord Alfred that it was necessary to throw him a bone, why should not they also make themselves feared?
    • 1944 Jan. 14, "ILWU Votes for FR Plan," Berkeley Daily Gazette (USA), p. 1 (retrieved 11 July 2011):
      The union . . . "regretted that the President thought it necessary to throw a bone to the anti-labor bloc" by saying the act would prevent strikes.
    • 1965 Dec. 10, “U.S. Business: New Dam for the Dollar Drain,” Time:
      Throwing a bone to the banks, it will allow a 4% increase in overseas loans next year.
    • 1991 June 18, "Cowboys reward Wright with early starting position," Fort Worth Star-Telegram, p. S1 (retrieved 11 July 2011):
      The Dallas Cowboys yesterday gave a starting job to Alexander Wright, in effect throwing him a bone.
    • 2006 June 16, Joseph Berger, “Acknowledging the Gay Part of Gay Marriage,” New York Times (retrieved 11 July 2011):
      And he did it on the day the Senate threw a bone to President Bush's evangelical base by voting on a Constitutional amendment declaring that only a union of a man and a woman constitutes marriage.