Shut or close the barn door after the horse has bolted

Shut the barn door after the horse has bolted and close the barn door after the horse has bolted are versions of an idiom that has been in use for hundreds of years. We will examine the meaning of the common saying shut the barn door after the horse has bolted or close the barn door after the horse has bolted, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

Shut the barn door after the horse has bolted and close the barn door after the horse has bolted are variations of an idiom that means to do too little, too late; to try to stop something that has already happlened or is in the process of happening and cannot be stopped; to make an effort that is futile because the damage has already been done. The expression shut the barn door after the horse has bolted or close the barn door after the horse has bolted stems from very literal imagery; it is useless to close a barn door to keep a horse in the barn once the horse has already left the barn. Variations of the phrase are found as far back as the 1300s.

Examples

“I liken the SEC’s proposal to going to shut the barn door after the horse has bolted only to find that someone else has already shut the door,” Johnson said. (Investor’s Business Daily)

“The Service’s attempt to slam shut the barn door after the horse already bolted is not sufficient,” the ruling said. (Capital Press)

They may, however, be a case of trying to close the barn door after the horse has bolted. (The Times of Malta)

“You don’t close the barn door after the horse has already left.” (Post-Star)

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