Draw a bead on

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Draw a bead on is an idiom that is been in use for many years. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom draw a bead on, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

Draw a bead on means to take aim at something, to train one’s sights on something, to plan an ambitious goal, or to concentrate on something. The bead mentioned in the phrase draw a bead on refers to the metal bead placed on top of a gun as a part of the sight. A notch is placed on top of the gun closer to the shooter, and the bead is placed farther down the barrel. A shooter takes aim by lining the bead up with the notch. The idiom draw a bead on came into use in in the mid-1800s to mean to aim at someone with a gun; the term was quickly adopted in a larger figurative sense in the United States. Related phrases are draws a bead, drew a bead, drawing a bead.


The vaccines are being distributed in local communities across the country, and health experts are actually starting to draw a bead on just when the pandemic will be behind us. (Sterling Journal-Advocate)

You’ll find yourself frazzled just trying to draw a bead on all the options, while a numbing calliope tune insists it’s all great fun. (Discover Magazine)

The critic Pauline Kael back in the Eighties drew a bead on the fantastically acclaimed Meryl Streep, observing that the actress “makes a career out of seeming to overcome being miscast.” (National Review)