What does the idiom "flog a dead horse" mean?

The expression flog a dead horse is one of the idioms that often finds a place in our literature and enriches our language. However, its meaning is not fully understood, so it is sometimes used in the wrong situations. Please review the explanation carefully for the correct use of the flog a dead horse idiom.

Meaning of "flog a dead horse"


The idiom 'flog a dead horse' is an expression that is used to describe a situation where someone is wasting their time and energy on a pointless task or activity. It implies that a person is trying to revive something that is dead or already finished, and is also used to describe an activity that has no hope of succeeding. In short, it is an expression used to describe a futile effort.


The origin of the phrase 'flog a dead horse' is unclear. It is thought to have its origins in the mid 19th century, when it was used to refer to a useless or futile endeavor. The phrase may also have roots in a metaphorical use of the verb 'flog', meaning to beat or thrash, combined with the phrase 'dead horse', meaning a job or task that has expired or died out. Alternatively, it is thought to be a reference to horse racing, where horses were whipped in an effort to make them run faster, even after they were dead.


The phrase 'flog a dead horse' is generally used to express criticism of someone who is attempting something that will be fruitless. It can be used in both a literal and figurative sense, to describe a situation where a person is expending time and energy on something which will not succeed. It can also be used to sarcastically describe someone who is being too persistent, or not giving up on a task which is already lost or gone. For example, someone might say, “He's been trying to get that contract for months - he's just flogging a dead horse.”

Example Sentences

  • I don't want you to spend all day on that project - it's a waste of time, you're just flogging a dead horse.
  • I can't believe they're still trying to get a refund from the company, it's like flogging a dead horse.
  • Stop wasting your energy on that, it's pointless - you're flogging a dead horse.

The meanings of the words in the "flog a dead horse" idiom

Idioms with similar meanings in different languages

"Barking up the wrong tree" is an English idiom that means to pursue a mistaken or misguided course of action. In German, the similar idiom is "Auf dem Holzweg sein," which translates to "To be on the wrong track." This idiom emphasizes the idea that when you are pursuing the wrong course of action, you are not going to achieve your desired outcome.


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