What Is a Bum Steer? – Origin and Meaning

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Hmmm, the term bum steer doesn’t exactly paint a pretty picture, does it? A lot of idioms are like that, with strange wording that only makes sense when you understand where it came from. So, let’s take a second to delve into the origin of the term bum steer and see how you can work it into a full sentence.

A Breakdown of the Bum Steer Meaning

What Is a Bum Steer Origin Meaning

If someone gives you misleading or unhelpful advice, info, or simple guidance that causes you to make a mistake, you’ve been bum steered.

Think of that one friend who always gives you questionable directions or that co-worker who insists their bizarre life hacks will change your world (spoiler alert: they won’t). Basically, a bum steer is the verbal equivalent of a faulty GPS leading you down a dead-end road.

Origin/Etymology of the Term Bum Steer

So, you might find some people say that it was created to describe a cow or steed that would mislead the rider in the wrong direction. But that’s not the case at all!

In the 1976 published work of Stuart Berg Flexner, I Hear America Talking: An Illustrated History of American Words and Phrases, there’s a section dedicated to the German immigrants’ influence on the American language. It indicates that the term “bummer” comes from the German word “bummler,” meaning to waste time.

Also, in the mid-1800s, it was a term used to describe a wandering soldier, and in the 1900s, it was used in regard to a false report on something.

What Are the Synonyms for Bum Steer?

Looking for some other way to get the same point across? Try any of these on for size.

  • Misguided advice
  • False lead
  • Poor guidance
  • Unreliable information
  • Bad tip
  • Wrong direction

Bum Steer Examples in a Sentence

What Is a Bum Steer Origin Meaning 1
  • My friend’s suggestion that I take the shortcut through the forest turned out to be a real bum steer because I ended up lost and eaten by mosquitoes.
  • I should have known not to follow Jerry’s investment advice; it was a total bum steer that cost me a fortune in the end.
  • My roommate’s cooking tips were a bum steer because my dish ended up burnt and inedible.
  • The map Dave drew for me was a bum steer, and I wandered the city aimlessly for six hours.
  • After paying a fortune for a writing and publishing coach, I discovered her advice was nothing but a bum steer because it didn’t help me at all, and I lost readers.

I’ll Never Steer You Wrong

Grammarist might not be the largest dictionary resource on terms and meanings, but we do our best to present well-informed info in an easily digestible manner. If someone gives you some bad advice, just take it for what it is, a bum steer, and figure out a way to move on. Use this term in your writing to give your characters more life and depth! And be sure to check out my other guides on idioms and phrases like this to broaden your vocab!