I've heard the phrase "wild horses won't keep me away", as is if wild horses were dragging me away, I wouldn't be kept from going where I was going.

Where does this come from?


According the following sourse, it refers to a medieval torture:

Wild horses couldn't drag me:

  • Nothing could induce or persuade me, as in Wild horses couldn't drag me to that nightclub. This idiom, always in negative form, is believed to have replaced wild horses couldn't draw it from me, referring to the medieval torture of using horses to stretch a prisoner and thereby force a confession. [First half of 1800s ]

(The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary)

Wild horses couldn't drag someone away (from something):

  • Prov. Someone is determined to remain with something. Once Elaine starts playing a video game, wild horses can't drag her away from it. Jim was determined to remain fishing at the lake. Wild horses couldn't drag him away from it.

(McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002)

The expression is mainly an AmE one as shown in Ngram and is from the mid 19th century.

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  • 2
    great image, very eloquent!
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 3 '16 at 20:37
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    Doesn't make sense. Wild horses would not have been used for torture in this way, and an idiom originating in North America would not have referenced such torture since it was never (to my knowledge) used here. I have to believe that that story is bogus, and the expression simply means that the speaker would out-pull a team of wild horses to accomplish the stated goal.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 3 '16 at 22:34
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    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dismemberment#Torn_apart_by_four_horses Queen Brunhilda of Austrasia, executed in 613, is generally regarded to have suffered the same death, though one account has it that she was tied to the tail of a single horse and thus suffered more of a dragging death. The Liber Historiae Francorum, an eighth century chronicle, describes her death by dismemberment as follows...
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 3 '16 at 22:43
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    @HotLicks - Wild horses couldn't keep me away: I'll be there, no matter what. (This expression is popular among older people, but younger people don't often use it.) Wild horses couldn't keep me away from my grandson's graduation. learnamericanenglishonline.com/American_Expressions/…
    – user66974
    Mar 3 '16 at 23:08
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    And, as you will note, the expression is only rarely used in the sense that could suggest torture -- usually along the lines of "wild horses couldn't drag that name out of me". If it were referencing the pictured form of torture you'd expect "wild horses couldn't make me tell you".
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 3 '16 at 23:14

In reference to the Rolling stone song, "Horse" is a nickname for heroin. So i always thought either it means nothing could drag you away from your addiction, or in the case of marrianne faithful who went into a coma as a result of a heroin overdose, she meant that even heroin couldnt kill her.

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