until the cows come home

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Alternative forms[edit]


Possibly from the fact that cattle let out to pasture may be only expected to return for milking the next morning; thus, for example, a party that goes on “until the cows come home” is a very long one.

The phrase was first coined by John Dunton in 1691 in his account of Ireland: in Teague Land: or A Merry Ramble to the Wild Irish (1698) he says “on Sundays and Holydays, all the people resorted with the piper and fiddler to the village green. Where the young folk dance till the cows come home", probably because the Irish would often bring their cows into their homes at night as mentioned by Dunton[1]


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until the cows come home

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

Usage notes[edit]

The phrase is often used to describe activities regarded as futile or unproductive.


See also[edit]