I love the visual that comes with the phrase barking up the wrong tree! But even though its origin comes from a literal context, the phrase today is pretty much just figurative, and we use it to imply someone or something is wrong. But let’s explore it further.
What Does the Idiom Barking Up the Wrong Tree Mean?
When someone thinks they’re correct in what they’re saying or doing, they’re barking up the wrong tree meaning they believe they are right, but they’re definitely not.
“Barking up the wrong tree” means you or someone else is making a mistake or pursuing the wrong path. And it can be applied to just about anything, like chasing after something that isn’t going to lead to the desired result or misinterpreting the situation.
Barking Up the Wrong Tree Origin
Now, where did this phrase come from? The foundation of “barking up the wrong tree” is thought to come from hunting dogs like bloodhounds or wolf mixes. When a hunting dog barks at a tree, it’s usually because they’ve spotted the target.
However, if the prey isn’t actually in the tree, the dog is literally barking up the wrong tree. The phrase has now taken on a figurative meaning that we use today.
One of the first published examples of the phrase was by James Kirke Paulding in his written work “Westward Ho!” in 1832.
Barking Up the Wrong Tree Synonyms
Instead of saying, “you’re barking up the wrong tree,” try these alternatives.
- I think you’re confused.
- You’re mistaken.
- He’s deluded if he thinks he’s right.
- Those people are misguided.
Using the Phrase Barking Up the Wrong Tree in a Sentence
- You’re barking up the wrong tree if you have it in your head that I’m going to give you a loan.
- Dan is barking up the wrong tree if he thinks he will get a promotion without putting in the work first. I’ve been here for six years and still haven’t gotten a raise.
- She’s definitely barking up the wrong tree if she thinks she’s going to find love on a silly dating app.
- The kiddos are barking up the wrong tree if they think they will get the new VR system.
- You’re insane and barking up the wrong tree if you think I will help you cheat on your exam. I’m not going to risk getting in trouble.
- If you think you’re going to impress her with flashy things and cheesy candy, you’re barking up the wrong tree. She’s looking for someone who’s kind and genuine.
- Lydia’s barking up the wrong tree if she thinks she’s going to get away with lying to her parents. They’ll find out the truth eventually.
- Your brothers think they will make a fortune by investing in a scam, but they’re barking up the wrong tree. They’re going to lose all their money.
- Stop barking up the wrong tree. I’m not going to give you a good reference after what you just did to me.
Don’t Bark Up the Wrong Tree
So, whether using it in conversation or in your writing, you should be able to confidently use the idiomatic phrase “barking up the wrong tree.” Remember that you can use it in place of saying someone is wrong.