harp on the same string


harp on the same string (idiom)
/hɑrp ɑn ðə seɪm strɪŋ/


  • harp on one string
  • harp on the same note
  • harp on a single string


  • to talk about the same subject over and over again, often in a tiresome way.
  • to dwell on the same point or topic repeatedly.
  • to persistently emphasize or discuss a single idea or issue.
  • to continually bring up the same matter in conversation.
  • to repeatedly express the same opinion or complaint.

Example Sentences

  1. He tends to harp on the same string when discussing his political views.
  2. During the meeting, she harped on the same string about the need for better communication.
  3. My friend always harps on the same string about the importance of healthy eating.
  4. The teacher harped on the same string about the importance of completing homework on time.
  5. She kept harping on the same string about how unfair the new policy was.
  6. Uncle Joe always harps on one string about his military days at family gatherings.
  7. The coach’s speech harped on a single string, focusing solely on discipline.
  8. He won’t stop harping on about the budget cuts; we need solutions.

Origin and History

“Harp on the same string” is an idiom with musical origins dating back centuries, reflecting the tediousness of repetitive action. It has been used in literature and common speech to criticize or describe someone’s tendency to dwell on a single subject persistently.

Musical Origins

The phrase “harp on the same string” is primarily derived from the musical practice of playing the harp. Historically, harps are stringed instruments played by plucking the strings to produce sound. The harp, with its pleasant and harmonious notes, has been used since ancient times in various cultural and religious ceremonies. However, repetitively playing the same string on a harp can create a monotonous and tedious sound, which serves as a metaphor for someone who persistently repeats the same point or idea in conversation.

Historical Usage

The earliest known printed use of the phrase dates back to the 16th century. An example from 1531 is found in John Frith’s “A Disputacion of Purgatorye,” where he wrote, “Se how he harpeth all of one stringe.” This illustrates the metaphorical use of the phrase to describe someone who dwells on a single topic tediously.

William Shakespeare also employed variations of this idiom in his plays. In “Hamlet,” Polonius remarks, “Still harping on my daughter,” showcasing its usage to denote repetitive and bothersome emphasis on a subject. Similarly, in “Richard III,” the phrase “Harp not on that string, madam; that is past” further emphasizes its literary presence and enduring relevance.

Cultural Evolution

The idiom evolved over time as the harp remained a prominent symbol in various cultures. While the harp typically symbolizes harmony and unity, the repetitive plucking of a single string disrupted this harmony, leading to the negative connotation associated with the phrase. The idiom transitioned into a common expression for highlighting someone’s monotonous repetition without introducing new information or perspectives.

Modern Usage and Variations

Today, the phrase “harp on the same string” is used widely in English to describe someone who continuously talks about the same topic, often to the point of annoyance. The idiom has several variations, including “harp on one string” and simply “harp on,” which all carry the same underlying meaning of repetitiveness and tedium. Synonyms include phrases like “beat a dead horse,” “talk in circles,” and “belabor the point,” which also convey the notion of excessive repetition.


  1. beat a dead horse
  2. go on and on
  3. keep repeating
  4. nag about

See also: harp on

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