dark horse


: a usually little known contender (such as a racehorse) that makes an unexpectedly good showing
: an entrant in a contest that is judged unlikely to succeed
: 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.
Recent Examples on the Web But right now, Christie appears more of a dark horse for the award, with freshmen from two rivals being more decorated. Andy Greder, Twin Cities, 16 Feb. 2024 But even for those that did make the list of nominations, the hope of a dark horse does slip into my predictions for Oscar 2024. Los Angeles Times, 12 Feb. 2024 Related Articles High school basketball primer: Contenders, dark horses and more as regular season enters home stretch That won’t be possible under the new format because only two teams in the top bracket (Open and Division I champions) advance beyond the section playoffs. Darren Sabedra, The Mercury News, 26 Jan. 2024 Which could be dark horses for the NFL Championship? Which teams have the best chance to lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy at the end of the NFL Playoffs? Check out our NFL power rankings heading into the first-round NFL postseason games, with each team's ranking before NFL Week 18 in parenthesis. Jeremy Cluff, The Arizona Republic, 8 Jan. 2024 But the real dark horse was Buffalo, which came in at No. 9 — the highest-ranking new entry on the list. Michael Kolomatsky, New York Times, 16 Nov. 2023 They are considered by many to be this season's dark horses to take the top prize - especially when considering how injury hit Real Madrid and Barca have been. Tom Sanderson, Forbes, 28 Nov. 2023 Cardinals' trade speculation swirls in NFL mock drafts Former walk-on Case Hatch makes mark at ASU pro day MLB power rankings: Diamondbacks 'dark horse contender' Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Duane Rankin, The Arizona Republic, 27 Mar. 2023 In the days leading up to their postseason opener, the team struck a defiant tone about their regular-season performance and championship aspirations — embracing their role as a relative dark horse amid doubts about their October pitching plans. Jack Harris, Los Angeles Times, 8 Oct. 2023 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use

1821, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of dark horse was in 1821

Dictionary Entries Near dark horse

Cite this Entry

“Dark horse.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dark%20horse. Accessed 28 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

dark horse

: a contestant or a political figure whose abilities and chances of winning are not known
the convention nominated a dark horse

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