flog a dead horse


flog a dead horse
also, beat a dead horse


  • waste energy on something that has no chance of succeeding.
  • waste effort on a lost cause.
  • engaging in a fruitless effort.
  • attempting to revive interest in something that has died out.

Example Sentences

  1. He keeps trying to get his manuscripts published, but I think he is flogging a dead horse.
  2. There’s no use trying to keep this business going. We are flogging a dead horse.
  3. I’ve told him numerous times to manage his routine effectively, but I think I’ve just been flogging a dead horse.
  4. You’re flogging a dead horse trying to persuade him to come with us; he hates going out at night.
  5. You keep trying to convince him to join your company, but I think you’re flogging a dead horse. He’s happy where he is.
  6. The teacher was flogging a dead horse when he lectured the students about the dangers of too much technology; they were glued to their smartphones while he spoke.


An English politician and Member of Parliament, John Bright, is credited with coining the idiom. In March 1859, speaking in the House of Commons on Bright’s efforts to endorse parliamentary improvement, Lord Elcho stated that Bright had not been “satisfied with the results of his winter campaign” and that “a saying was attributed to him [John Bright] that he [had] found he was “flogging a dead horse.”

See also: beat a dead horse

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