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.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Chiang was once seen as the dark horse of the Democratic field, but his campaign has yet to ignite. Phil Willon, latimes.com, "High-stakes California governor’s race debate gets testy as personal and political attacks fly," 9 May 2018 Here’s a dark horse for the quarterback battle: incoming freshman Kevaris Thomas. Jake Lourim, The Courier-Journal, "How Louisville football can (and can't) beat Western Kentucky," 4 July 2018 Georgia Tech catcher Joey Bart would be the next most-likely scenario, with Wisconsin high-schooler Jarred Kelenic looking like the dark horse. 2. Richard Morin, azcentral, "MLB mock draft 2.0: Arizona Diamondbacks select a high school shortstop," 29 May 2018 By my definition, a dark horse cannot have a first-round bye, so that eliminates Arizona, USC, Utah and UCLA. Doug Haller, azcentral, "Pac-12 Insider: A favorite, a dark horse and potential chaos in Pac-12 Tournament," 6 Mar. 2018 Runners-up at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and hoping to be a dark horse here in Russia, the South Americans are keenly aware of what Saturday’s game will look like. Joshua Robinson, WSJ, "Iceland Is Your New Favorite World Cup Team (and They Know It)," 15 June 2018 Belgium: Based purely on their squad, Belgium are debatably a dark horse. Hayden Bird, BostonGlobe.com, "An American’s guide to picking a team to root for in the World Cup," 14 June 2018 Manual coach Ken Stovall said Zukic is a dark horse. Nate Bryan, The Courier-Journal, "St. Francis' Eva Borders looks to repeat state tennis championship," 16 May 2018 The handheld immersion blender is the smaller-but-still-plenty-powerful dark horse for MVP. Becky Krystal, charlotteobserver, "Why buying an immersion blender is a smooth move | Charlotte Observer," 15 May 2018

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.

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First Known Use of dark horse

1831, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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Last Updated

20 Oct 2018

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The first known use of dark horse was in 1831

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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

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