Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

Beat about the bush discuss a matter without coming to the point; be ineffectual and waste time. A metaphor originating in the shooting or netting of birds.

beat a (hasty) retreat withdraw, typically in order to avoid something unpleasant. Formerly in a military context, a drumbeat could be used to keep soldiers in step while retreating.

beat the bounds trace out the boundaries of a parish, striking certain points with rods; the custom is recorded from the late 16th century.

beat the bushes search thoroughly. A North American expression, originating in the practice of hunters who walk through undergrowth with long sticks to force birds or animals hiding in the bushes out into the open where they can be shot or netted.

beat the Dutch say or do something extraordinary; the term is recorded from the late 18th century, and is from the US.

if you can't beat them, join them advice as to coping with overwhelming opposition, often used in consolation or resignation. The saying is recorded from the mid 20th century (in the US, the form is lick rather than beat).

Reference entries

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.