Idiom

Beat a dead horse

Meaning
To waste time trying to do something that is finished
Origin

Beat a dead horse This phrase is generally believed to come from the 19th century, when beating a horse to make them go faster was common.

Logically, beating a dead horse is a pointless activity as it can’t move. The idiom appeared in 1859, in the London-based newspaper ‘Watchman and Wesleyan Advertiser’, where it said: ‘It was notorious that Mr. Bright was dissatisfied with his winter reform campaign and rumour said that he had given up his effort with the exclamation that it was like flogging a dead horse.’

However, some scholars consider it to have originated even earlier, in the 17th century, where it was known as ‘flogging a dead horse’. Today, both ‘beat a dead horse’ and ‘flogging a dead horse’ can be used.

Examples

I don’t mean to beat a dead horse but can you explain the situation to me again?

Re-counting the votes of an election can be like beating a dead horse sometimes.

He keeps trying to get his novel published but it’s been rejected twelve times already. It’s like beating a dead horse, but he won’t give up.


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