Bark is worse than one’s bite

Bark is worse than one’s bite is an idiom that dates back hundreds of years. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom bark is worse than one’s bite where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

Bark is worse than one’s bite means that someone’s grumpy or aggressive words cannot harm you; that the person in question talks as if he will be vindictive or violent, but in reality, will not back up his aggressive words with actions. A person whose bark is worse than his bite may berate you, but he will not attempt to damage your career or punch you in the nose. The expression bark is worse than one’s bite came into use in the mid-1600s and refers to the fact that a barking dog is too busy barking to actually bite you. Dog behaviorists say that a barking dog is afraid, while a dog that is willing to bite is not afraid; he is aggressive and will growl, not bark.

Examples

However, when Nagy took part of an hour in a team meeting to show players how Gardner-Johnson punks players or harasses them to take them off their game, and Miller then told media during a Zoom press conference last week that Gardner-Johnson’s bark is worse than his bite, the unsportsmanlike conduct ejection looks utterly destructive. (Sports Illustrated)

And I might add that he also intimidated me when I first started working with him, but I learned early on that his bark is worse than his bite, because guess what?  He now tells me that I intimidate him. (Staten Island Advance)

He’s now 72 and it seems that age hasn’t mellowed the former Tory deputy chairman, novelist, playwright and prisoner, who speaks in clipped tones, rather like a schoolmaster who’s about to tell you off, but with a twinkle in his eye which hints that his bark is worse than his bite. (Romford Recorder)

Enjoyed reading about this idiom? Check out some others we covered: