See more synonyms for horse on
noun, plural hors·es, (especially collectively) horse.
  1. a large, solid-hoofed, herbivorous quadruped, Equus caballus, domesticated since prehistoric times, bred in a number of varieties, and used for carrying or pulling loads, for riding, and for racing.
  2. a fully mature male animal of this type; stallion.
  3. any of several odd-toed ungulates belonging to the family Equidae, including the horse, zebra, donkey, and ass, having a thick, flat coat with a narrow mane along the back of the neck and bearing the weight on only one functioning digit, the third, which is widened into a round or spade-shaped hoof.
  4. something on which a person rides, sits, or exercises, as if astride the back of such an animal: rocking horse.
  5. Also called trestle. a frame, block, etc., with legs, on which something is mounted or supported.
  6. Gymnastics.
    1. vaulting horse.
    2. pommel horse.
  7. Carpentry. carriage(def 7).
  8. soldiers serving on horseback; cavalry: a thousand horse.
  9. Slang. a man; fellow.
  10. Often horses. Informal. horsepower.
  11. horses, Slang. the power or capacity to accomplish something, as by having enough money, personnel, or expertise: Our small company doesn't have the horses to compete against a giant corporation.
  12. Chess Informal. a knight.
  13. Slang. a crib, translation, or other illicit aid to a student's recitation; trot; pony.
  14. Mining. a mass of rock enclosed within a lode or vein.
  15. Nautical. traveler(def 6b).
  16. Shipbuilding. a mold of a curved frame, especially one used when the complexity of the curves requires laying out at full size.
  17. Slang. heroin.
verb (used with object), horsed, hors·ing.
  1. to provide with a horse or horses.
  2. to set on horseback.
  3. to set or carry on a person's back or on one's own back.
  4. Carpentry. to cut notches for steps into (a carriage beam).
  5. to move with great physical effort or force: It took three men to horse the trunk up the stairs.
  6. Slang.
    1. to make (a person) the target of boisterous jokes.
    2. to perform boisterously, as a part or a scene in a play.
  7. Nautical.
    1. to caulk (a vessel) with a hammer.
    2. to work or haze (a sailor) cruelly or unfairly.
  8. Archaic. to place (someone) on a person's back, in order to be flogged.
verb (used without object), horsed, hors·ing.
  1. to mount or go on a horse.
  2. (of a mare) to be in heat.
  3. Vulgar. to have coitus.
  1. of, for, or pertaining to a horse or horses: the horse family; a horse blanket.
  2. drawn or powered by a horse or horses.
  3. mounted or serving on horses: horse troops.
  4. unusually large.
Verb Phrases
  1. horse around, Slang. to fool around; indulge in horseplay.
  1. back the wrong horse, to be mistaken in judgment, especially in backing a losing candidate.
  2. beat/flog a dead horse, to attempt to revive a discussion, topic, or idea that has waned, been exhausted, or proved fruitless.
  3. from the horse's mouth, Informal. on good authority; from the original or a trustworthy source: I have it straight from the horse's mouth that the boss is retiring.
  4. hold one's horses, Informal. to check one's impulsiveness; be patient or calm: Hold your horses! I'm almost ready.
  5. horse of another color, something entirely different.Also horse of a different color.
  6. look a gift horse in the mouth, to be critical of a gift.
  7. To horse! Mount your horse! Ride!

Origin of horse

before 900; (noun) Middle English, Old English hors; cognate with Old Norse hross, Dutch ros, German Ross (Middle High German ros, Old High German hros); (v.) Middle English horsen to provide with horses, Old English horsian, derivative of the noun
Related formshorse·less, adjectivehorse·like, adjectiveun·der·horse, verb (used with object), un·der·horsed, un·der·hors·ing.
Can be confusedhoarse horse

dead horse

  1. something that has ceased to be useful or relevant.
  1. beat/flog a dead horse, to persist in pursuing or trying to revive interest in a project or subject that has lost its usefulness or relevance.

Origin of dead horse

An Americanism dating back to 1820–30 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for flog a dead horse


British Dictionary definitions for flog a dead horse


  1. a domesticated perissodactyl mammal, Equus caballus, used for draught work and riding: family EquidaeRelated adjective: equine
  2. the adult male of this species; stallion
  3. wild horse
    1. a horse (Equus caballus) that has become feral
    2. another name for Przewalski's horse
    1. any other member of the family Equidae, such as the zebra or ass
    2. (as modifier)the horse family
  4. (functioning as plural) horsemen, esp cavalrya regiment of horse
  5. short for Baja California Norte
  6. a narrow board supported by a pair of legs at each end, used as a frame for sawing or as a trestle, barrier, etc
  7. a contrivance on which a person may ride and exercise
  8. a slang word for heroin
  9. mining a mass of rock within a vein of ore
  10. nautical a rod, rope, or cable, fixed at the ends, along which something may slide by means of a thimble, shackle, or other fitting; traveller
  11. chess an informal name for knight
  12. informal short for horsepower
  13. (modifier) drawn by a horse or horsesa horse cart
  14. a horse of another colour or a horse of a different colour a completely different topic, argument, etc
  15. be on one's high horse or get on one's high horse informal to be disdainfully aloof
  16. flog a dead horse See flog (def. 6)
  17. hold one's horses to hold back; restrain oneself
  18. horses for courses a policy, course of action, etc modified slightly to take account of specific circumstances without departing in essentials from the original
  19. the horse's mouth the most reliable source
  20. to horse! an order to mount horses
  1. (tr) to provide with a horse or horses
  2. to put or be put on horseback
  3. (tr) to move (something heavy) into position by sheer physical strength
Derived Formshorseless, adjectivehorselike, adjective

Word Origin for horse

Old English hors; related to Old Frisian hors, Old High German hros, Old Norse hross
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for flog a dead horse



Old English hors, from Proto-Germanic *hursa- (cf. Old Norse hross, Old Frisian hors, Middle Dutch ors, Dutch ros, Old High German hros, German Roß "horse"), of unknown origin, connected by some with PIE root *kurs-, source of Latin currere "to run" (see current (adj.)).

The usual Indo-European word is represented by Old English eoh, from PIE *ekwo- "horse" (see equine). In many other languages, as in English, this root has been lost in favor of synonyms, probably via superstitious taboo on uttering the name of an animal so important in Indo-European religion.

Used since at least late 14c. of various devices or appliances which suggest a horse (e.g. sawhorse). To ride a horse that was foaled of an acorn (1670s) was through early 19c. a way to say "be hanged from the gallows." Slang for heroin is first attested 1950. Horse latitudes first attested 1777, the name of unknown origin, despite much speculation. Dead horse as a figure for "something that has ceased to be useful" is attested from 1630s.

HORSEGODMOTHER, a large masculine wench; one whom it is difficult to rank among the purest and gentlest portion of the community. [John Trotter Brockett, "A Glossary of North Country Words," 1829]

The horse's mouth as a source of reliable information is from 1921, perhaps originally of racetrack tips, from the fact that a horse's age can be determined accurately by looking at its teeth. To swap horses while crossing the river (a bad idea) is from the American Civil War and appears to have been originally one of Abe Lincoln's stories. Horse and buggy meaning "old-fashioned" is recorded from 1926 slang, originally in reference to a "young lady out of date, with long hair." The proverbial gift horse was earlier given horse:

No man ought to looke a geuen hors in the mouth. [Heywood, 1546]

The modern form perhaps traces to Butler's "Hudibras" (1663), where the tight iambic tetrameter required a shorter phrase:

He ne'er consider'd it, as loth
To look a Gift-horse in the mouth.



Old English horsian "to provide with a horse or horses," from horse (n.). Related: Horsed; horsing. Sense of "to play excessive jokes on" is by 1893, mostly in formation horse around (1928), perhaps from horseplay.

[A] favorite pastime for many men is to "horse" or guy a friend who has shown himself susceptible to ridicule or fun making. "Horsing" is extremely wholesome mental discipline for over sensitive or super-conceited young men. "Horsing" always implies a joke at another's expense. As to how it came into use there is no satisfactory theory to offer. ["Yale Literary Magazine," December 1893]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with flog a dead horse

dead horse

see beat a dead horse.


In addition to the idioms beginning with horse

  • horse around
  • horse of a different color, a
  • horse sense
  • horse trading

also see:

  • back the wrong horse
  • beat a dead horse
  • cart before the horse
  • change horses in midstream
  • charley horse
  • dark horse
  • eat like a bird (horse)
  • from the horse's mouth
  • hold one's horses
  • if wishes were horses
  • look a gift horse in the mouth
  • on one's high horse
  • war horse
  • wild horses couldn't drag
  • work like a beaver (horse)
  • you can lead a horse to water
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.