Until the cows come home: origins and examples (2023)

How about that phraseuntil the cows come home🇧🇷 Why don't people just say what they mean, which is "forever" or "for an indefinitely long time"?

The question answers itself in an instant.Until the cows come home, like many metaphors, adds color, emphasis, atmosphere, and even dynamism. How boring communication would be if we took literal words and used them like Lego blocks, clumsily building our sentences word for word.Until the cows come homeit certainly rings loud enough with British audiences to turn not one, but two books by that title intosunday schedulebest-sellers of this year.

And not only that: if you tend to "see" words and phrases, it adds up to a vivid picture. For me, it evokes the vision of Spotted Guernseys walking down a muddy path to the barn or milking parlor, their full udders swaying. For Dutch Golden Age painters specializing in landscapes (an English word derived from Dutch), cows munching contently in their pastures or standing impassively by a river were a symbol of hard-won tranquility and prosperity after a nearly a century's struggle for freedom. . 🇧🇷

Do you see?

Sometimesuntil the cows come homeconveys this simple meaning of 'indefinitely' without any further implications or connotations, and can even be used in a positive and optimistic context:

So eat them [sc. olives] until the cows come home in bars or restaurants to help curb their appetite.

However, we use it much more often to highlight the futility of some action, to suggest that it is against all odds for an event to happen. Often associated withtalkingand verbs in the same lexical field, such asdebating,what is discussed, and so on. The idea is of an endless 'conversation workshop':

odebateon whether or not the death penalty should be abolisheduntil the cows come home.

Youcould argueabout ituntil the cows come home– and kiwis often do.

Maybe I'm just bitter from the experience, but I think most teens have been a pain in the ass since their invention decades ago. Acan yielduntil the cows come home, but it won't make the slightest difference.

But why cows in the first place? And why at home? Except in the dead of winter, most dairy cows in Britain will be let out to graze and graze. In the height of summer, they may be out in the open for most of the day, from early morning, with a break for morning milking, until milking time again in the evening. This makes the day long and therefore motivates, even today, the idea of ​​an infinitely long period of time.

Historically, 'house' must have been a stable or milking shed. And in the past, cows could stay all day, or even overnight, until they were ready to be milked. That, at least, is an explanation of the phrase. To its credit, the heavy, serene, almost languid way of the cow's gait can, from a human point of view, slow time down to almost a stop. Think about itthe herd mooingslow windshelter on the grassand the long vowels and diphthongs in the rest of that line.

(Video) 🔵 Until the Cows Come Home - English Idioms - Till the Cows Come Home Meaning and Examples

Another suggested explanation is that the time period evoked refers to the entire summer, when cows in Scotland were put out to graze, returning home only when grass was scarce at the end of the season. This, however, appears to be based on the unsubstantiated claim that the phrase is Scottish, as reported in theSchedulesin January 1829:

If the duke [sc. of Wellington} will only do what he unquestionably can do, and propose a Catholic bill with titles, he can be a minister, as they say in Scotland "until the cows come home."

If the phrase was originally Scottish, who can say. The claim is most likely fake news. What is certain is that it was first recorded in the Ant and Dec plays of the Elizabethan stage, those sub-Shakespears Beaumont and Fletcher.

In fact, originally only one methane polluter was involved because the language was:until the cow comes home🇧🇷 And in case you are wondering if this verb formcomeIt's a typo, isn't it? It is the subjunctive used with reference to the future tense, as inwhatever comes(= whatever happens in the future) and the decidedly old-fashioned nowuntil the kingdom come, which echoes the Our Fatheryour kingdom come Thy will be done.

In contrast to typical negative modern uses, in both B&F pieces[1]––the activities to be carried out until the cow returns home are pleasant:

Kiss until the cow comes home, kiss close, kiss close to the scoundrels.
My Modern Poet, you will kiss in couplets


Good day! Drink till the cows come home, it's all paid for, boys.

The fact that B&F has used the phrase twice suggests that it was already well known at the time of this writing; this is supported by another quote from 1610, from Alexander Cooke's extreme Puritan speech Pope Joane: a dialogue between a Papist and a Protestant, in a passage where priests are accused of all manner of licentiousness:

…the[South Carolina. or father]swindlerForts with your neighbor PrieFts, who are totally given over to pleasures; And that's how he and they live, not like ChrisFChristians, but as Epicureans; drink, eat, faithFhaving fun,until the cow comes homeas the saying goes.

Cooke's tirade is in both Latin and English; the Latin correspondence 'until the cows come home' is the soft oneThe times are consuming('they spend all their time’). Clearly, using his native language allowed him to ride high on his workhorse. In an earlier section, he foams at the mouth like this:So now it's all one, turn a girl into a nun and turn her into a whore..

Mother Teresa would roll over in her grave.

The first modern version observed byDEOit's fastA complete collection of kind and witty conversations(1738):

(Video) Until the cows come home | Meaning and Usage | English Idioms

I guarantee you will put a bed until thecowsI returned home.

The most up-to-date quote I found in the news is a review from Digital Camera World Magazine that uses the phrases in their positive Jacobin sense:

And with a FREE 4TB hard drive, 64GB SD card and battery strap, you'll be able to keep shooting until the cows come home!

[1] 1610, Despicable Lady; 1609–12, The Captain.

  1. People will stop using animal-related phrases when pigs fly.



  2. Hi Margie or Hello Margarite!

    Nice to hear from you. To be honest, I'm happy because I hadn't heard about it recently and I wanted to know if it was okay. Yes indeed: animal metaphors always bring home the bacon of everyday language. I'm so glad you didn't find the post a wet squid.

    (Video) English idiom : Until the cows come home | meaning with animated scenes

    The best and most sincere greetings for Christmas.



  3. Hello dear Jeremiah,
    Until the cow comes home!!

    I liked the use of the subjunctive of the verb to come

    And to be honest, I'm pretty familiar when pigs fly. , but this is new and an education


    Is it true that Scottish farmers let their cows graze all summer?




    (Video) Until the cows come home
    1. Not sure about the Scottish connection, tbh, Hakim. It is one theory among many.



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What is the origin of till the cows come home? ›

The idiom till the cows come home has been in use since at least the sixteenth century and may have originated in the Scottish Highlands, where cows are allowed to graze for months at a time before they meander home in the fall.

What is the figurative meaning of until the cows come home? ›

idiom. informal. : for a very long time.

What happens when the cows come home? ›

The phrase is usually used to mean “a long time,” or to refer to being out really late. (For example, if you're going to party until the cows come home, you're probably going to have a crazy late night.)

Which answer here is the definition for this word or phrase till the cows come home? ›

“Till the cows come home.” That means a long time, long time.

What is the origin of the saying don't have a cow? ›

The phrase don't have a cow is often used when someone is becoming enraged, as an admonishment that their anger is out of proportion to the inciting incident. “Don't have a cow, man,” became a catchphrase in the 1990s as a result of the popular cartoon television show, The Simpsons.

Why do some honor the cow at Christmas? ›

The Spanish especially honor the cow at Christmas because it is thought that when Mary gave birth to Jesus the cow in the stable breathed on the Baby Jesus to keep him warm. Christmas is a deeply religious holiday in Spain.

What are the 20 examples of idioms? ›

Here are 20 English idioms that everyone should know:
  • Under the weather. What does it mean? ...
  • The ball is in your court. What does it mean? ...
  • Spill the beans. What does it mean? ...
  • Break a leg. What does it mean? ...
  • Pull someone's leg. What does it mean? ...
  • Sat on the fence. What does it mean? ...
  • Through thick and thin. ...
  • Once in a blue moon.
23 Feb 2022

What is an example of a cow idiom? ›

: to become very angry, upset, etc. Don't have a cow! I said I'd take care of the problem and I will.

What is the cow analogy? ›

Socialism: If you have two cows, you give one to your neighbor. Communism: If you have two cows, you give them to the Government and the Government then gives you some milk. Fascism: If you have two cows, you keep the cows and give the milk to the Government; then the government sells you some milk.

What would happen if all cows were released? ›

If cows disappeared from the planet, much of the land that is currently part of a vibrant and productive food system would essentially become unproductive and/or heavily reliant on manufactured fertilizers (as opposed to cow manure, which can effectively fertilize fields) to achieve viable crop production.

What happens when the cow suddenly appeared before the bus? ›

Answer: Valli refused to look out of the window on her way back because she saw a young cow lying dead by the roadside, just where it had been struck by some fast-moving vehicle. It was the same cow that was running in front of their bus, during their trip to the town. She was overcome with sadness.

What happens when the cow came in front of the bus? ›

The cow had been hit with a quick vehicle. She was loaded up with sadness on seeing her. The bus proceeded onward yet the contemplations of the dead cow frequented Valli. Further, she didn't looked outside the window.

What is the figurative language of cows? ›

1. To have a cow. Figurative meaning: To become angry, agitated, worried or upset. Often said in the negative “don't have a cow” when asking someone to calm down or chill out.

What is the meaning of the Old English word cattle? ›

The Old English word is feoh "livestock, cattle; movable property; possessions in livestock, goods, or money; riches, treasure, wealth; money as a medium of exchange or payment," from Proto-Germanic *fehu (source also of Old Saxon fehu, Old High German fihu, German Vieh "cattle," Gothic faihu "money, fortune").

When a cow comes into heat every few days she is referred to as? ›

Estrus in cattle is commonly referred to as heat. It occurs every 18 to 24 days in sexually mature, open (nonpregnant) female cattle when they are receptive to mounting activity by bulls or other cows or heifers, according to Dr.

What does it mean to call a girl a cow? ›

Slang: Disparaging and Offensive. a contemptible woman, especially one who is fat, stupid, lazy, etc.

What does Pigs don't fly mean? ›

Pig's can't fly! It's impossible, which is precisely what the expression means. We say it as a response when someone tells us something that we think is impossible or very unlikely.

Why is the goat called a poor man's cow? ›

Goats are known as the "poor man's cow" because they require lesser investment and are cheaper to rear. Goat rearing is prominent in dryland farming systems that depend on the annual rainfall because, in such marginal lands, goats are the best alternative to other types of cattle like cow or buffalo.

Why are cows considered holy or sacred? ›

The cow, a revered animal in Hinduism

The cow was gradually incorporated into a religious ritual and itself became sacred and an object of veneration from the 4th century BCE. It represents Mother Earth, as it is a source of goodness and its milk nourishes all creatures.

What is the dark history behind Christmas? ›

From ancient times, the season that we now know as Christmas was a midwinter celebration called The Winter Solstice, or Yule. A pagan festival, The Winter Solstice was a time to celebrate the fact that the worst of winter was over, and the people could look forward to longer days with more sunlight in the near future.

What is the real truth behind Christmas? ›

Christians celebrate Christmas Day as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, a spiritual leader whose teachings form the basis of their religion.

What are the 100 examples of idioms? ›

100 Common English Idioms
  • Break the ice. Meaning: To get the conversation going. ...
  • A dime a dozen. Meaning: Very common: quite ordinary. ...
  • Beat around the bush. Meaning: To avoid saying something. ...
  • Back against the wall. ...
  • Bite the bullet. ...
  • Wrap one's head around something. ...
  • Under the weather. ...
  • Better late than never.
15 Jul 2022

What are 5 examples of idioms and their meanings? ›

Five idioms every English student should know
  • Get your act together (Meaning: you need to improve your behaviour/work) ...
  • Pull yourself together (Meaning: calm down) ...
  • I'm feeling under the weather (Meaning: I'm sick) ...
  • It's a piece of cake (Meaning: it's easy) ...
  • Break a leg (Meaning: good luck!)
2 Feb 2018

What are 50 examples of idioms? ›

50 popular idioms to sound like a native speaker
Be a good catchBe someone worth marrying/having
Beat around the bushAvoid the main topic or not speak directly about the issue
Bend over backwardsDo whatever it takes to help. Willing to do anything
Bite off more than you can chewTake on a task that is too big
46 more rows
20 Mar 2017

What are the 10 examples of idioms? ›

10 Idioms You Can Use Today
  • “Hit the hay.” “Sorry, guys, I have to hit the hay now!” ...
  • “Up in the air” “Hey, did you ever figure out those plans?” ...
  • “Stabbed in the back” ...
  • “Takes two to tango” ...
  • “Kill two birds with one stone.” ...
  • “Piece of cake” ...
  • “Costs an arm and a leg” ...
  • “Break a leg”
29 Sept 2017

When the cows come home idiom meaning? ›

Phrase. until the cows come home. (idiomatic) For a very long period of time. quotations ▼ You can crank the engine until the cows come home, but it won't start without fuel.

Is till the cows come home a metaphor? ›

If you say that someone can do something until the cows come home, but it will have no effect, you are emphasizing that it will have no effect even if they do it for a very long time.

What does the cow symbolize in literature? ›

Cows are known as symbols of fertility, Mother Earth and power for centuries. Cows are also associated with rejuvenation and new beginnings—similar to Mother Earth.

What are the 3 characteristics of cow? ›

Cattle tend to be stocky with long, rectangular bodies. Beef cattle are more muscular; dairy cattle have a truer rectangular shape. Zebu cattle (Bos indicus) are called humped cattle; each specimen has a hump over its shoulders. The head is small relative to body size; it has a long, straight snout.

What would life be like without cows? ›

Earth's ecology would suffer.

About 70 percent of it is permanent pastureland – land that, even under the best of circumstances, isn't suitable for growing crops. Cows take land ill-suited to provide plant-based nutrition and turns it into a source of high-quality animal nutrition.

What if cows didnt exist? ›

A world without cows means less methane, but it also means no beef (or fewer cute creatures if you're a vegetarian). You'd have to go back before the dawn of recorded history to find a time when cows weren't nibbling on grass and swatting flies with their tails.

What are 3 things cows need to survive? ›

Essentially, we must provide air, light, space, food, water and rest to establish good health in a dairy cow.

What did the cow symbolize in the early Vedic age? ›

It is said that cow is an adobe of Hindu Deities and treated as the highest and the most sacred animal. It is a symbol of compassion and 'Universal symbol of Motherhood'. According to the great sage Parashar, Brahma divided two parts of the same clan – one-part cow and one-part Brahmin.

What do cows do when there's a storm coming? ›

If cows huddle, a bad storm is approaching.

How does the presence of the cow affect her mood during her return journey? ›

Valli thoroughly enjoyed her ride to the town, and laughed and clapped when the young cow ran in the middle of the road in front of the bus. But her enjoyable bus ride became a nightmare on her return journey. She saw the same cow lying dead on the road. This sight haunted her, dampened her spirits, and saddened her.

What does the poet get from the cow answer? ›

Ans. The poet gets cream from the Cow.

Who made the cow move from the road? ›

2. Name those tried to make the cow move. Ans. The milkman, policeman, grocer, wrestler and ice-cream man tried to make the cow move.

What does the cow gives the poet? ›

Ans- The cow gives cream to the poet. The poet eat apple tart with it. 3.

What is the old wives tale about cows lying down? ›

There is an old wives tale that cows lying in a field is a sign of coming rain. There are a lot of theories as to why cows might lie down before the rain hits: Perhaps cows can sense increasing air moisture, realizing it's about to rain and get everything wet.

Why do cowboys have to move cows? ›

Because the herd is constantly moving away from it's own manure, they end up moving away from flies that will hatch over the coming days. Parasite pressure is also dramatically reduced by moving the herd daily, as an animal will not return to an area that was previously grazed for quite some time.

When was till the cows come home recorded? ›

Caryll, Ivan and Caldwell, Anne, "Wait Till the Cows Come Home" (1917).

What does hanging out with the dry cows mean? ›

Many years ago we used the expression “going out with the dry cattle” to mean going out on a date.

Why do cows have 4 stomachs? ›

The four compartments allow ruminant animals to digest grass or vegetation without completely chewing it first. Instead, they only partially chew the vegetation, then microorganisms in the rumen section of the stomach break down the rest.

Why do cows all lie down together? ›

Cows are herd animals and stick together to reduce the threat from predators. It makes sense for them all to graze in the same direction, so the herd stays together as it drifts around the field or across the savannah.

What do cowboys call cows? ›

Why are cattle 'dogies'? Why did cowboys refer to their cattle as "dogies"? It's hard to imagine they confused bovines with canines. First of all, some say dogies and some say doggies.

Who was the first cowboy in history? ›

As the cattle and horses multiply, a workforce of commoners, or paisanos, becomes necessary. The first vaquero in North America is thought to be Hernán Cortés' Moorish slave, followed by Native Americans who learned to ride without saddles.

What is a group of cowboys called? ›

The classic image of a posse is from the Old West, of a group of armed cowboys on horses, in pursuit of an outlaw. Originally the term was posse comitatus, Latin meaning the force of the country.

Do the cows ever come home? ›

Cows return to their barn for milking at a given time late each night. If a cow runs away or escapes, it doesn't return, unlike horses, which will return to their stable. As such, 'til the cows come home is an indefinitely long time.

How long did the cow live? ›

A cow can live for around 20 years but in commercial systems she will be culled at 6 years old, on average3. She can give birth from 2-3 years old. Dairy cows have a hierarchical social structure and communicate by touch, smell, vocalisations and body language.

When were cows last in the wild? ›

Cattle were first domesticated around 10,500 years ago from their wild ancestors, but today there are no wild cows.

What does milk fever meaning? ›

Milk fever is a metabolic disorder caused by insufficient calcium, commonly occurring around calving. Milk fever, or hypocalcaemia, is when the dairy cow has lowered levels of blood calcium. Milk fever generally occurs within the first 24 hours post-calving, but can still occur two to three days post-calving.

How many years does a cow give milk? ›

How Long Do Cows Produce Milk For? Cows typically produce milk for about 10 months after giving birth. Dairy cows are often allowed to live for about four years before being slaughtered and sold for ground beef because they no longer produce enough milk to be profitable.

Why is a donkey in the field with cows? ›

Guard donkeys are more accepted by the public for livestock protection than poisons. Under certain conditions, they provide around-the- clock protection against predators and other pasture intruders.


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