until the cows come home


until the cows come home


  • till the cows come home
  • when the cows come home


  • for a long time or indefinitely.
  • until an unspecified or lengthy period elapses.
  • until a situation changes or a task is completed, often implying a lengthy wait.
  • indicating an extended duration or delay, often used to express skepticism or impatience.
  • until a late or unpredictable hour.
  • forever

Example Sentences

  1. I’ll keep drawing pictures on the sidewalk with chalk until the cows come home.
  2. Let’s build the biggest sandcastle ever, and we’ll keep adding more towers till the cows come home.
  3. We can swing on the swings at the park until the cows come home.
  4. I’ll tell you stories about magical kingdoms till the cows come home, but you have to promise not to fall asleep.
  5. She said she’d wait for him to apologize when the cows come home, but it seems like he’s not planning to anytime soon.
  6. We can keep on arguing about this till the cows come home, but it won’t solve anything.
  7. At the pace you are going, you won’t finish the project till the cows come home.
  8. You can keep on trying to convince me until the cows come home, but I won’t change my views.
  9. You can keep reading about investing until the cows come home, but you won’t achieve anything unless you actually start investing.
  10. We can talk about all that’s wrong until the cows come home, but unless we act on them, there will not be any improvement.

Origin and History

The phrase “until the cows come home” derives from the common sight of cows slowly returning to their shelters at some unspecified time. Its usage dates back to at least the sixteenth century, possibly originating in the Scottish Highlands, where cows roam freely for months before leisurely returning home in autumn. One of its earliest print appearances is found in John Eliot’s Ortho-epia Gallica, published in 1593, a French language textbook. It reads:

“I am tied by the foote till the cows come home.”

This idiom gained traction in English literature in the mid-18th century, becoming widely known by the turn of the 19th century.

Interesting Fact

In most European alpine villages, an annual festival celebrates the return of the cows. Adorned in festive attire, the cows descend from the mountains as winter approaches. Historically, this tradition involved bringing the cows indoors for warmth during the winter. Waiting until the cows come home means waiting until autumn arrives. Evidence of the origin of this idiom can be found in many places in Europe, from Scotland to the Alps Mountain range.

Share your opinions1 Opinion

When I was much much younger, I’d be sitting and talking with my mom, and that’s when she’d say something about getting on with whatever before the cows came home? I do remember some of her funny expressions, BUT SHE LOVED MUSIC HALL and, reading about a lot of funny expressions that were used by comedians from that time, i.e., prior to and during the 2nd World War. I’m supposing that’s where it originated from!

‒ Marion Brodie January 13, 2023

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