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  1. the abrupt, harsh, explosive cry of a dog.
  2. a similar sound made by another animal, as a fox.
  3. a short, explosive sound, as of firearms: the bark of a revolver.
  4. a brusque order, reply, etc.: The foreman's bark sent the idlers back to their machines.
  5. a cough.
verb (used without object)
  1. (of a dog or other animal) to utter an abrupt, explosive cry or a series of such cries.
  2. to make a similar sound: The big guns barked.
  3. to speak or cry out sharply or gruffly: a man who barks at his children.
  4. Informal. to advertise a theater performance, carnival sideshow, or the like, by standing at the entrance and calling out to passersby.
  5. to cough.
verb (used with object)
  1. to utter in a harsh, shouting tone: barking orders at her subordinates.
  1. bark at the moon, to protest in vain: Telling her that she's misinformed is just barking at the moon.
  2. bark up the wrong tree, to assail or pursue the wrong person or object; misdirect one's efforts: If he expects me to get him a job, he's barking up the wrong tree.

Origin of bark1

before 900; Middle English berken, Old English beorcan; akin to Old English borcian to bark, Old Norse berkja to bluster, Lithuanian burgė́ti to growl, quarrel, Serbo-Croatian br̀gljati to murmur
Related formsbark·less, adjective


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11. shout, bellow, yell, roar, bawl.


  1. the external covering of the woody stems, branches, and roots of plants, as distinct and separable from the wood itself.
  2. Tanning. a mixture of oak and hemlock barks.
  3. candy, usually of chocolate with large pieces of nuts, made in flat sheets.
verb (used with object)
  1. to rub off or scrape the skin of, as by bumping into something: to bark one's shins.
  2. to remove a circle of bark from; girdle.
  3. to cover, enclose, or encrust with or as if with bark.
  4. to treat with a bark infusion; tan.
  5. to strip the bark from; peel.

Origin of bark2

1250–1300; Middle English < Old Norse bǫrkr (genitive barkar)
Related formsbark·less, adjective


or barque

  1. Nautical. a sailing vessel having three or more masts, square-rigged on all but the aftermost mast, which is fore-and-aft-rigged.
  2. Literary. a boat or sailing vessel.

Origin of bark3

1425–75; late Middle English barke < Old French barqueLate Latin barca, Latin *bārica, bāris < Greek bâris Egyptian barge < Coptic barī barge
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for bark

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • That it is one tree seems to be evident from the growth of the bark only on the outside.

    The Grand Old Man

    Richard B. Cook

  • I made the sign of friendship and set food before her, and water in a cup of bark.

    The Trail Book

    Mary Austin

  • He stuffed his pipe again with fine tobacco and bark of red willow and began.

    The Trail Book

    Mary Austin

  • The bark is jagged by the slashes of venomous chassepot bullets.

  • The vessel was an English bark, full of soldiers, bound to New Brunswick.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

British Dictionary definitions for bark


  1. the loud abrupt usually harsh or gruff cry of a dog or any of certain other animals
  2. a similar sound, such as one made by a person, gun, etc
  3. his bark is worse than his bite he is bad-tempered but harmless
  1. (intr) (of a dog or any of certain other animals) to make its typical loud abrupt cry
  2. (intr) (of a person, gun, etc) to make a similar loud harsh sound
  3. to say or shout in a brusque, peremptory, or angry tonehe barked an order
  4. US informal to advertise (a show, merchandise, etc) by loudly addressing passers-by
  5. bark up the wrong tree informal to misdirect one's attention, efforts, etc; be mistaken

Word Origin

Old English beorcan; related to Lithuanian burgěti to quarrel, growl


  1. a protective layer of dead corky cells on the outside of the stems of woody plants
  2. any of several varieties of this substance that can be used in tanning, dyeing, or in medicine
  3. an informal name for cinchona
verb (tr)
  1. to scrape or rub off skin, as in an injury
  2. to remove the bark or a circle of bark from (a tree or log)
  3. to cover or enclose with bark
  4. to tan (leather), principally by the tannins in barks

Word Origin

C13: from Old Norse börkr; related to Swedish, Danish bark, German Borke; compare Old Norse björkr birch


  1. a variant spelling (esp US) of barque
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for bark


"tree skin," c.1300, from a Scandinavian source akin to Old Norse borkr "bark," from Proto-Germanic *barkuz, which probably is related to birch and Low German borke. The native word was rind.


"any small ship," early 15c., from Middle French barque (15c.), from Late Latin barca (c.400 C.E.), probably cognate with Vulgar Latin *barica (see barge). More precise sense of "three-masted ship" (17c.) often is spelled barque to distinguish it.


in reference to a dog sound, Old English beorcan "to bark," from Proto-Germanic *berkanan (cf. Old Norse berkja "to bark"), of echoic origin. Related: Barked; barking. To bark up the wrong tree is U.S. colloquial, first attested 1832, from notion of hounds following the wrong scent.


dog sound, Old English beorc, from bark (v.). Paired and compared with bite (n.) since at least 1660s; the proverb is older: "Timid dogs bark worse than they bite" was in Latin (Canis timidus vehementius latrat quam mordet, Quintius Curtius).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

bark in Science


  1. The protective outer covering of the trunk, branches, and roots of trees and other woody plants. Bark includes all tissues outside the vascular cambium. In older trees, bark is usually divided into inner bark, consisting of living phloem, and outer bark, consisting of the periderm (the phelloderm, cork cambium, and cork) and all the tissues outside it. The outer bark is mainly dead tissue that protects the tree from heat, cold, insects, and other dangers. The appearance of bark varies according to the manner in which the periderm forms, as in broken layers or smoother rings. Bark also has lenticels, porous corky areas that allow for the exchange of water vapor and gases with the interior living tissues.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with bark


In addition to the idioms beginning with bark

also see:

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.