beat the air


beat the air


  • fighting without any purpose.
  • going on with making futile attempts.
  • keep doing something, even though it is pointless.
  • make useless efforts.
  • making vain efforts.
  • go against an imaginary enemy.

Examples in Sentences

  1. You are just beating the air if you want to turn him into a good boy.
  2. Voting is just beating the air; the offices are all alike.
  3. Trying to cram everything at the last minute is beating the air if you still need to revise it properly.
  4. He had made up his mind, so convincing him to stay was just beating the air.
  5. Forgiving a criminal in the hope that he will change is beating the air; he should be in prison.
  6. The teacher has already marked the papers; trying to turn yours in late is beating the air.
  7. He will not see through the progressive agenda; he is only beating the air.


People began using the phrase in the late 1300s. They used it to create a vivid picture of an individual who flails away at nothing. The phrase has gained much literary use over the years. For instance, Hans Christian Andersen used it in “The Bell.” In Epistle Sermons, Volume II, Martin Luther also uses it when he says:

“They fail, however, to see they race uncertainly and beat the air.”

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