Throw or toss someone a bone

Throw or toss someone a bone is an idiom with an uncertain origin. 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. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions that native speakers understand such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, eye to eye, barking up the wrong tree, hit the nail on the head, kick the bucket, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, 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 phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the idiom throw or toss someone a bone, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

To throw or toss someone a bone means to make a small concession, to give someone a trivial bit of information, an insignificant item, or a meaningless rank in order to placate him. To throw or toss someone a bone by bestowing a small favor is like throwing a bone to a howling dog. The idea is simply to quiet the dog, not to give him a healthy meal that is good for him. The origin of this idiom is unknown. Throw someone a bone is about twice as popular as toss someone a bone. Related phrases are throws or tosses someone a bone, threw or tossed someone a bone, throwing or tossing someone a bone.


“Brooker’s another one who really just threw me a bone I never would have thought I deserved, you know?” (Vanity Fair Magazine)

It wasn’t just busy work to throw him a bone, nor to keep him from yearning for a few trips around the lake. (The Times-Union)

If upgrades have held you back from iCloud, then Apple is throwing you a bone. (Business Insider)

As farmers deal with the fallout of California’s decision to outlaw chlorpyrifos, the governor’s May budget revision threw them a bone. (The Daily Democrat)

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