go to the bow-wows



go to the bow-wows (third-person singular simple present goes to the bow-wows, present participle going to the bow-wows, simple past went to the bow-wows, past participle gone to the bow-wows)

  1. (dated, idiomatic, informal) To go to the dogs, to decline or deteriorate.
    • 1896, Arthur G. Burgoyne, “Timon of Athens” in Shakespeare Up to Date, and Other Latter-Day Lyrics, Pittsburg: T. W. Nevin, p. 16,[1]
      With lavish hand his cash he spent,
      And with lightning speed to the bow-wows went
      And into the gutter fell.
    • 1912, James Oneal, Militant Socialism, Saint Louis: The National RipSaw Publishing Co., p. 28,[2]
      The robber barons of the Middle Ages were perfectly sure that civilization would go to the bow-wows if they were interfered with.
    • 1928, Dorothy L. Sayers, “The Piscatorial Farce of the Stolen Stomach” in A Treasury of Sayers Stories, London: Victor Gollancz, 1961, p. 288,[3]
      His father died a couple of years ago—he was a Writer to the Signet in Edinburgh—and I fancy Robert has rather gone to the bow-wows since then. Got among a cheerful crowd down there, don't you know, and wasted his substance somewhat.

Usage notesEdit

Current from the mid-19th to the early 20th century. Frequent variants are go to the damnation bow-wows and the euphemistic go to the demnition bow-wows.