dark horse

noun

Definition of dark horse

1a : a usually little known contender (such as a racehorse) that makes an unexpectedly good showing
b : an entrant in a contest that is judged unlikely to succeed
2 : a political candidate unexpectedly nominated usually as a compromise between factions

Examples of dark horse in a Sentence

The Democrat from Utah has gone from being a dark horse to the front-runner in the campaign for President. The movie is a dark horse for the award. He is a dark horse, but I did find out that he once played football professionally.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web That role has followed the program into the postseason, where the ‘Cats have been a dark horse in four of the last five bowl games. Matt Murschel, orlandosentinel.com, 31 Dec. 2021 The dark horse of the menu and a tribute to Italians everywhere, the Sicilian Classico ($8.50) is a wild-looking combination of Italian sausage, mozzarella, marinara sauce, Parmesan, oregano and black olive slices. Soleil Ho, San Francisco Chronicle, 2 Dec. 2021 The dark horse of the National Dog Show, this tubby young gun has a superheroic spirit. Scottie Andrew, CNN, 25 Nov. 2021 All-Big Ten caliber big men, a dark horse for conference player of the year in Jaden Ivey, and multiple elite recruits to bolster an already dangerous frontcourt. By typical preseason measures, the Boilermakers should enter this season as favorites. Zach Osterman, The Indianapolis Star, 8 Oct. 2021 And, finally, don’t be surprised if Walmart WMT +0.9% becomes a dark horse potential acquirer, either. Chris Walton, Forbes, 28 Dec. 2021 The freshman briefly earned Heisman buzz before losing two of the final five games with a narrow escape at lowly-Kansas effectively ending any shot of his dark horse bid. Michael Casagrande | Mcasagrande@al.com, al, 6 Dec. 2021 Mitchell entered the race as a favorite, against a host of former and current city council members, including dark horse Keisha Lance Bottoms, who had joined the council in 2009. Ernie Suggs, ajc, 1 Dec. 2021 Smith’s name also figures to get some run for other jobs, perhaps even as a dark horse candidate at USC. oregonlive, 18 Nov. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'dark horse.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of dark horse

1831, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Learn More About dark horse

Time Traveler for dark horse

Time Traveler

The first known use of dark horse was in 1831

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near dark horse

dark-ground

dark horse

dark kitchen

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for dark horse

Last Updated

17 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Dark horse.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dark%20horse. Accessed 23 Jan. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for dark horse

dark horse

noun

English Language Learners Definition of dark horse

: a person (such as a politician), animal, or thing that competes in a race or other contest and is not expected to win
: a person who has interesting qualities or abilities that most people do not know about

More from Merriam-Webster on dark horse

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for dark horse

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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