Preaching to the Choir – Meaning and Origin

Photo of author

Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

The idiom preaching to the choir means trying to convince someone of something they already believe in or telling someone something they already know or do. It’s like enthusiastically explaining the benefits of chocolate to Willy Wonka—it’s completely redundant!

Idioms, like preaching to the choir, are phrases where the words together have a different meaning than their individual definitions. These figurative phrases are important to the English language because they provide us with endless ways to describe an idea and communicate more visually. But only if they’re implemented correctly.

So, take a second and read over my guide to this idiom as I break down its meaning and origin while sharing some examples in a sentence.

What Does Preaching to the Choir Mean?

Preaching to the Choir – Meaning and Origin

The expression preaching to the choir can be summed up quite succinctly: it refers to the act of delivering a message or argument to an audience that already shares the same beliefs or opinions.

It’s like offering a piece of advice to a new parent, such as the suggestion to get some rest. While well-intentioned, it’s often unnecessary because, in all likelihood, they are already well aware of the advice. (However, convincing them to heed it is a different story altogether!)

This idiom underscores the importance of tailoring our messages to reach those who might genuinely benefit from hearing them, rather than reiterating what’s already known to a receptive audience.

Is It Singing to the Choir or Preaching to the Choir?

Singing to the choir might seem like a natural evolution of this idiom, given its musical roots, but the correct and widely accepted version is preaching to the choir. That being said, you could use both phrases, and most people would still pick up on your intent.

Preaching to the Choir Origin and Etymology

Preaching to the Choir Ngram
Preaching to the choir usage trend.

The idiom “preaching to the choir” comes from British English in the 1800s but really took off in the American South during the 1900s. It suggests the redundancy of a preacher preaching a doctrine to those (the choir) who already believe it. The choir, in this context, represents devout believers, making the act of convincing them superfluous.

This idea carried forward, and the intent behind the message has become one of the most common idioms we use today.

Synonyms for the Preaching to the Choir Expression

  • Telling it to the marines
  • Wasting one’s breath
  • Beating a dead horse
  • Going over old ground
  • Talking to a brick wall

Preaching to the Choir Examples in a Sentence

Preaching to the Choir – Meaning and Origin 1

  • Telling a librarian about the benefits of reading is like preaching to the choir.
  • Why bother lecturing vegetarians on the pros of plant-based diets? You’re just preaching to the choir!
  • The girl preached to the choir when talking about climate change to environmental scientists.
  • He keeps explaining the game rules to DnD experts, seriously preaching to the choir.
  • “You’re preaching to the choir,” she said when he raved about the features on the new phone.
  • By promoting recycling at the Green Planet Conference, Ted was just preaching to the choir.
  • Listen, I’ve already donated, so there’s no need to preach to the choir about the cause’s importance.
  • “Complaining about traffic to a city-dweller? Talk about preaching to the choir,” he said with a dismissive pfft sound.
  • Promoting fitness in a gym is like preaching to the choir—everyone’s already a believer.
  • Discussing the importance of sleep with parents of young children is preaching to the choir—they don’t want to hear it!

Don’t Be Too Preachy

Preaching to the choir embodies the visual whimsy and personality idioms brought to the English language with words and phrases rooted in our culture and history. Keep learning! We have more idioms than you can read!