bark up the wrong tree

Idioms & Phrases

bark up the wrong tree

Waste one's efforts by pursuing the wrong thing or path, as in If you think I can come up with more money, you're barking up the wrong tree. This term comes from the nocturnal pursuit of raccoon-hunting with the aid of dogs. Occasionally a raccoon fools the dogs, which crowd around a tree, barking loudly, not realizing their quarry has taken a different route. [Early 1800s]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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