E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
To strike. (Anglo-Saxon, beatan.)
To beat an alarm. To give notice of danger by beat of drum.
To beat or drum a thing into one. To repeat as a drummer repeats his strokes on a drum.
To beat a retreat (French, battre en retraite); to beat to arms; to beat a charge. Military terms similar to the above.
To beat the air. To strike out at nothing, merely to bring ones muscies into play, as pugilists do before they begin to fight; to toil without profit; to work to no purpose.
So fight I, not as one that beateth the air.l Cor. ix. 26.
To beat the bush. One beat the bush and another caught the hare. Il a battu les buissons, et autre a pris les oiseaux. Il bat le buisson sans prendre les oisillons is a slightly different idea, meaning he has toiled in vain. Other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours (John iv. 48). The allusion is to beaters, whose business it is to beat the bushes and start the game for a shooting party.
To beat the Devils Tattoo. (See TATTOO.)
To beat the Dutch. To draw a very long bow; to say something very incredible.
Well! if that dont beat the Dutch!
To beat time. To mark time in music by beating or moving the hands, feet, or a wand.
To beat up supporters. To hunt them up or call them together, as soldiers are by beat of drum.