Bare bones

Bare bones is an idiom that came into use in the 1700s, though its meaning has changed. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as kick the bucket, let the cat out of the bag, beat a dead horse, barking up the wrong tree, bite the dust, let sleeping dogs lie, Achilles heel, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the expression bare bones, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

Bare bones means the most essential parts, the most basic piece of something without frills or extraneous details. For instance, if one wants to hear the bare bones of an idea, he does not want to know how someone came up with the idea, all of the repercussions for implementing the idea, and who was involved in developing the idea. He only wants to hear a brief synopsis of the idea. Bare bones may be used as an adjective, spelled with a hyphen as in bare-bones. Synonyms for the term bare-bones that may be found in a thesaurus are austere, plain, unadorned, rustic, spare. Originally, the term bare bones was used to mean someone who is so thin that one may see his bones through his skin. By the turn of the twentieth century, the expression bare bones came to mean the most basic parts of something, rendered without frills or embellishments. The adjective bare-bones came into use in the 1940s.


So if you’ve wondered why your district no longer offers programs like art or music, or why there are no teaching assistants — why, in short, your district’s classrooms are is operating bare-bones classrooms —  this is why.  (The Detroit Free Press)

He spends a good deal of the film using the bare bones of Wright’s novel as a kind of springboard. (Variety Magazine)

The film’s bare-bones storyline centers on an overnight road trip undertaken by the two men to pick up the legal drugs that will allow Michael to end his life. (The Hollywood Reporter)

Theatrics aside, North Korean negotiators have done nothing since the Singapore summit to put flesh on the vaguely worded, bare-bones agreement Trump reached with his Pyongyang counterpart, which called for “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” (USA Today)


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