What Does It Mean to “Dance Around”?

If you’ve ever heard the phrase “dance around the issue”, you might wonder how such a thing is possible. An issue isn’t a tangible thing, so one can hardly dance around it as they would a fire, right?

Worry not – we’re here to explain!

What Does It Mean to “Dance Around”?

To “dance around” something means to avoid or evade it. It essentially refers to when someone does not directly address something, but instead uses euphemisms or other methods to be as indirect as possible. E.g., “The President is known to dance around the issue of land redistribution”.

dance around meaning

The Free Dictionary defines “dance around” as “to avoid or evade talking about some issue or topic directly or at all”. With this definition in mind, let’s look at some examples of how to say “dance around” in a sentence:

  • The media loves to dance around the truth when it comes to where all this funding goes.
  • Don’t dance around the subject, we’re all adults here.

It has been suggested that this phrase is derived from boxing, since fighters may, at times, use footwork to tire out their opponents as opposed to immediately fighting them.

So, now we understand what this phrase means in context. However, it appears to be a pretty recent phrase, most often used in the United States. It might be useful, therefore, to look at what to say instead of “dance around” in case this expression is misunderstood by your audience.

Other Ways to Say “Dance Around”

Other ways to say “dance around” are “beat around the bush”, “mince words”, and “equivocate”.  All of these expressions mean to conceal or evade the truth in some way. Not all of these expressions are perfect synonyms for “dance around”, but they certainly express similar sentiments.

1. Beat Around the Bush

The Cambridge Dictionary provides the following definition for the phrase “beat around the bush”:

  • To avoid talking about what is important

In this way, the phrase “beat around the bush” is similar to “dancing around an issue”, as it suggests that a speaker is purposefully failing to address a certain topic.

Let’s see how this expression might be used in a sentence:

  • Don’t beat around the bush – tell me exactly what you think about Gregg and Shahid’s decision to move back in together.
  • Try not to beat around the bush at the meeting, they’ll value direct feedback.

2. Mince Words

According to the Macmillan Dictionary, to “mince (your) words” means “to be careful about what you say in order to be polite or not offend someone”.

Although to “dance around” something has a wider meaning than this, one might choose to dance around an uncomfortable issue in order to be polite and refrain from causing offense.

  • I’m not the type to mince words, so if you don’t want to hear my real opinion, don’t seek my advice.
  • It wouldn’t hurt to mince your words around your gran – she’s a woman of her time, after all!

3. Equivocate

Another way to say “dance around” is to say that someone is “equivocating”. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, to “equivocate” means “to speak in a way that is intentionally not clear and confusing to other people, especially to hide the truth”.

As you can probably guess, to equivocate can involve making use of euphemisms to avoid addressing a topic directly. In this way, “equivocate” is a great synonym for “dancing around” an issue.

  • I would ask that the honorable member try not to equivocate on this matter, as we are lacking in time.
  • The defendant equivocated when we asked him where he was that night.

4. Pussyfoot

The Cambridge Dictionary defines “pussyfoot” as “to avoid making a decision or expressing an opinion because you are uncertain or frightened about doing so”.

It is therefore possible to “pussyfoot” around an issue, just as it is possible to “dance around” it. However, these terms do have slightly distinct connotations.

If someone is “pussyfooting”, it implies that they are timid or noncommittal, whereas to “dance around” an issue comes across as a more skillful way to deflect from a matter.

  • We can no longer pussyfoot around the feelings of those in power while the oppressed remain in dire straits.
  • I have no interest in listening to you pussyfoot around this problem – fix it or get out.