Why does a horse and the activity of "playing horse" describe one who is teasing, ridiculing, or even flirting? The survey of College Words and Phrases by Eugene H. Babbitt published in 1900 lists the expression to play horse with and the many meanings of it including to tease, to ridicule, and to flirt. I'm curious to know if anyone has any ideas as to how "playing horse with" became associated with these meanings?

  • Is this use still common? I've never heard it used this way in American English. I know of "horseplay", but it doesn't have anything to do with teasing or flirting.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jun 20, 2014 at 23:21
  • No, it's not but I enjoy writing and to make my books as realistic as possible I'll research old slang from the decade of which I'm writing and sometimes it's easy for me to understand why a word or phrase has a certain meaning but other times I haven't the least notion! The folks on this site are very helpful with helping me determine etymologies and origins. I shouldn't be surprised if I use this phrase on account of it does sound neat Ha-ha-ha
    – User53019
    Commented Jun 21, 2014 at 21:11

1 Answer 1


Not sure, but may be it originated from the way young horse's frolic and play-fight.Its just silliness and fun with no constructive purpose. So, perhaps it was thought that anything a "fool" was engaged in was similar to "horse play" and was frivolous, And hence the association.

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