"His Bark Is Worse Than His Bite"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: This folk saying, which means that a person's actions are milder than his belligerent or threatening utterances might lead one to expect, has been proverbial in a number of wordings for centuries. It appears, among other places, in The Proverbs of Alfred (1275) as "The bitch biteth ill though she bark still (that is, always)"; in Trevisa's Polychronicon (1386) as "It is the manner of the feeblest hounds to bark most"; in Nicholas Udall's Thersytes (1560) as "Great barking dogs do not most bite"; in R. Edwards' Damon and Pithias (1571) as "These barking whelps were never good biters"; in James Sanford's The Garden of Pleasure (1573) as "A barking dog will do no hurt"; in Fedele and Fortuneo or Two Italian Gentlemen (1584) as "Great barkers are none of the greatest biters"; in Robert Greene's Card of Fancy (1584) as "The greatest barkers were not always the sorest biters"; and in Greene's George-a-Greene, the Pinner of Wakefield (1599) as "Barking dogs bite never the sorest." In spite, however, of the many efforts to reword the expression, the most succinct form remains the anonymous one:

His bark is worse than his bite.