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bark up the wrong tree Informal

Meaning: If you're barking up the wrong tree, you're looking for something in the wrong place or going about something in the wrong way.

For example:

  • The police think the drugs are being brought in by the mafia, but they're barking up the wrong tree. They should be looking much closer to home.

  • She's barking up the wrong tree if she's interested in Gavin. Doesn't she know he's gay?

Origin: Metaphorical, from the image of a dog barking up a tree in which it thinks another animal has taken refuge in order to escape it.

Quick Quiz:

The police think the murderer is hiding in the forest, but they're barking up the wrong tree. He is
  1. in a different tree
  2. in a different forest
  3. not in a forest

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