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beard the lion

To confront risk or danger head on, especially for the sake of possible personal gain. Refers to a proverb based on a Bible story from I Samuel, in which a shepherd, David, hunts down a lion that stole a lamb, grasps it by the beard, and kills it. Risks very often don't turn out well, but if you don't face them and beard the lion, you will never achieve the success you truly desire.
See also: beard, lion
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

beard the lion

Confront a danger, take a risk, as in I went straight to my boss, bearding the lion. This term was originally a Latin proverb based on a Bible story (I Samuel 17:35) about the shepherd David, who pursued a lion that had stolen a lamb, caught it by its beard, and killed it. By Shakespeare's time it was being used figuratively, as it is today. Sometimes the term is amplified to beard the lion in his den, which may combine the allusion with another Bible story, that of Daniel being shut in a lions' den for the night (Daniel 6:16-24).
See also: beard, lion
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

beard the lion, to

To confront a dangerous opponent; to take a risk head-on. The first Book of Samuel (17:35) tells of David, the good shepherd, who pursued a lion that had stolen a lamb and, “when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.” The expression often is put, “to beard the lion in his den,” which in effect adds the story of the prophet Daniel, whose enemies had him thrown into a den of lions for the night (Daniel 6:16–24). Daniel survived, saying that God had sent an angel to shut the lions’ mouths. In any event, the term became a Latin proverb, quoted by Horace and Martial and in the Middle Ages by Erasmus, in which a timid hare disdainfully plucked a dead lion’s beard. It began to be used figuratively by the time of Shakespeare, and was a cliché by the mid-nineteenth century.
See also: beard
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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References in classic literature ?
And dar’st thou then To beard the lion in his den, The Douglas in his hall “—Marmion.
I generally reserve my vote for those one or two underdogs who have the temerity to beard the lion in his den and challenge the status quo.
(He might have gotten booed, but he's a big guy and I'm sure he'd be able to take it.) The industry should have enough guts to beard the lion.
John Drescher assumed the editorship of Gospel Herald in 1962, prepared to beard the lions of Washington.