carry coals to Newcastle

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English[edit]

Alternative forms[edit]

Etymology[edit]

Newcastle upon Tyne (in England) was a major coal-exporting city, so sending coal there would be pointless.

Verb[edit]

carry coals to Newcastle (third-person singular simple present carries coals to Newcastle, present participle carrying coals to Newcastle, simple past and past participle carried coals to Newcastle)

  1. (idiomatic) To do something that is unneeded or redundant.
    • 1851, Herman Melville, chapter 81, in Moby-Dick[1]:
      However curious it may seem for an oil-ship to be borrowing oil on the whale-ground, and however much it may invertedly contradict the old proverb about carrying coals to Newcastle, yet sometimes such a thing really happens; and in the present case Captain Derick De Deer did indubitably conduct a lamp-feeder as Flask did declare.
    • 1960, P. G. Wodehouse, chapter II, in Jeeves in the Offing:
      He's the fellow who likes to let off stink bombs in night clubs, which rather falls under the head of carrying coals to Newcastle []
    Synonyms: bring owls to Athens

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