Harp on


What's the meaning of the phrase 'Harp on'?

To speak repeatedly and boringly about a topic.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Harp on'?

The term ‘harp on’ has been known since the 16th century. The metaphor is to the tedious repeated plucking of a single string on a harp.

The first use of it that I know of ‘harp on’ in print is a quotation fromA disputacion of purgatorye, a 1531 work by the English priest John Frith:

“Se how he harpeth all of one stringe.”

Shakespeare also used ‘harping on’ later, in Hamlet, 1602:

“Still harping on, my daughter?”

Trend of harp on in printed material over time

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Gary Martin

Writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.