hob·​by·​horse ˈhä-bē-ˌhȯrs How to pronounce hobbyhorse (audio)
: a figure of a horse fastened about the waist in the morris dance
: a dancer wearing this figure
obsolete : buffoon
: a stick having an imitation horse's head at one end that a child pretends to ride
: a toy horse suspended by springs from a frame
: a topic to which one constantly reverts

Did you know?

Does your favorite hobby involve a horse? Whether it does or not, the word hobby is undeniably equine: it’s a shortening of the older term hobbyhorse. And in a strange etymological twist, the word hobbyhorse is itself a product of an older word hobby that in the 1400s referred to a small or medium-sized horse, especially one that moved at a gentle pace. By the mid 1500s, hobby horse was being used to refer to a horse costume worn by a person participating in a morris dance or other performance, and then to a toy consisting of a stick with a toy horse's head at one end that a child pretends to ride. By the next century the literal horse was unneeded, and hobbyhorse could refer to a favorite pursuit or pastime—that is, our modern hobby. From pastime, the meaning of hobbyhorse was extended to “a subject that someone returns to repeatedly, especially in conversation.” This sense is typically encountered in such phrases as “get on one’s hobbyhorse” or “ride one’s hobbyhorse.”

Examples of hobbyhorse in a Sentence

Once he gets on his hobbyhorse and starts talking about taxes, you can't get him to discuss anything else. She's been riding that hobbyhorse for months.
Recent Examples on the Web Riding clubs and hobbyhorse camps foster those close connections. Miles Klee, Rolling Stone, 13 June 2024 In part that’s because, to climb back on an old hobbyhorse of mine, platforms are still too stingy with the data that might help researchers understand them better. Casey Newton, The Verge, 24 May 2023 Nor does the Trooper seem to hobbyhorse longitudinally or wobble laterally while running straight on some surfaces, as the S-10 Blazer sometimes does. Pete Lyons, Car and Driver, 26 Mar. 2023 The short-wheelbase Suzuki hobbyhorses over these rhythmic disturbances and sets your guts a-bouncing. Kevin Smith, Car and Driver, 4 Mar. 2023 This is a hobbyhorse of Washington progressives, both because federal jurisdiction over gun crimes hinges on their movement in interstate commerce, and because bloviating about guns is more palatable than addressing who exactly is using guns illegally, a third rail in Democratic Party politics. Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review, 5 Feb. 2022 Most of the criticism is baseless tripe hatched to advance Trump or some other Fox News hobbyhorse, though there have been plenty of legitimate reasons to bash MSNBC and CNN over the years. Erik Wemple, Washington Post, 19 July 2022 Speculation about why this might be so tends to reflect the hobbyhorse of the speculator. Zoë Heller, The New Yorker, 4 Apr. 2022 Donbas has served variously as a bargaining chip with Western powers, a cudgel to hold over them, a hobbyhorse for the home audience and an albatross. New York Times, 16 Jan. 2022

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'hobbyhorse.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


hobby small light horse, from Middle English hoby, hobyn, perhaps from Hobbin, nickname for Robert or Robin

First Known Use

circa 1553, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of hobbyhorse was circa 1553


Dictionary Entries Near hobbyhorse

Cite this Entry

“Hobbyhorse.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hobbyhorse. Accessed 22 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


hob·​by·​horse -ˌhȯ(ə)rs How to pronounce hobbyhorse (audio)
: a stick with an imitation horse's head at one end that a child pretends to ride
: a toy horse hung by springs from a frame
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!