What does "Horsing Around" Mean?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The English idiom “horsing around” refers to boisterous, silly play, especially play with a child-like aspect. This may also be referred to as horseplay, using a closely related term. This type of play tends to be improvised and spontaneous, and it can be engaged in by people of all ages, from young children to mischievous adults. People often use the term affectionately, although it may also be used as a form of castigation, as in “kids, quit horsing around!”

"Horsing around" probably comes from the playfulness of young horses.
"Horsing around" probably comes from the playfulness of young horses.

People first started using the term “horseplay” in the late 1500s. It appears to be linked to the concept of young horses at play. Colts and fillies tend to play hard and rough, especially when they are turned out to pasture, and many people enjoy watching young horses at play as they explore the outside world. Applying the description of “horseplay” to young children at play was probably only natural, given that both children and young horses exhibit a great deal of curiosity and love for having fun when they are around their fellows.

Silly play among friends might be termed "horsing around."
Silly play among friends might be termed "horsing around."

Horsing around usually involves a physical aspect. People may develop elaborate games, or simply engage in mock tussles and fake fights which promote bonding while also building strength and dexterity. Objects may also be involved in horseplay, especially if they can be used cooperatively. For example, people may play a modified version of a ball game with a large inflatable ball in the back yard.

Laughter is part of "horsing around."
Laughter is part of "horsing around."

In addition to being a good form of exercise for people of all ages, horsing around also appears to confer some mental health benefits. Play, laughter, and having fun all seem to promote a more even, calm, and happy mental state. For people who are severely stressed, a bit of play can help to relieve tension and unhappiness, especially when it involves friends. Playgrounds for children are often designed to promote horsing around, with an environment which is as safe as possible so that children will not injure themselves.

Someone who enjoys "horsing around" may channel that energy into different martial arts regimens.
Someone who enjoys "horsing around" may channel that energy into different martial arts regimens.

Some people never lose their taste for horsing around, taking opportunities to play whenever they get an opportunity to do so. Others may channel their enjoyment of horseplay into something like physical comedy, improvisational sketches, or the development of more disciplined martial arts, yoga, and other activities. Although some societies frown upon play among adults, kicking up one's heels now and then can actually be a very beneficial activity.

Playgrounds for children are often designed to promote horsing around.
Playgrounds for children are often designed to promote horsing around.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon145155

At school we had a number of gym games, and later I found the same games were used as warm-up exercises in the gymnastics gym, but I am unable to find any present day references to them. Mainly they are Beetle Ride/Race, Tank Roll and Bucking Bronco and many more. I would like to find out full details of how they are performed. Yours, Jay.

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