dark horse


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

Johansson may be the dark horse of the picks, a mobile skater with good hockey sense. Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press, "Grading Steve Yzerman's first draft as Detroit Red Wings general manager," 23 June 2019 Will the Shirley Temple prove to be a crowd-pleasing dark horse? Lauren Hubbard, Town & Country, "What Is the Official Summer Drink of 2019?," 21 June 2019 The mayor, who is seen as a dark horse in the overcrowded Democratic field, has been taken to task by leaders in the South Bend’s Black community in the past. Breanna Edwards, Essence, "Pete Buttigieg Cancels Presidential Campaign Events After Fatal Police Shooting In South Bend," 18 June 2019 Scouting report: Has size and skill, could be dark horse if skating improves. Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Red Wings 2017 NHL draft review: Some quality choices amid quantity," 9 June 2019 Daniel Rapaport: Pardon my calling a 12-time Grand Slam champion a dark horse, but that's exactly what Novak Djokovic is right now. The Si Staff, SI.com, "Wimbledon 2018 Preview Roundtable: Predictions, Dark Horses, More," 29 June 2018 Microsoft Microsoft could be the dark horse here: CEO Satya Nadella has shown a flair for the dramatic big-money buy: think of the $7.5 billion acquisition of GitHub this summer, or the $27 billion buyout of LinkedIn in 2016. Theodore Schleifer, Recode, "Who could buy Discord? Acquirers have been giving the gaming startup a long look.," 21 Nov. 2018 Political hustle: Stavis is this cycle’s dark horse. Theodore Schleifer, Recode, "Ten big Silicon Valley money players behind this November’s U.S. midterm elections," 20 Aug. 2018 Prior to the tournament, an armchair pundit or two may have labelled them the 'dark horse', or a team who could 'surprise a few'. SI.com, "Pride and Passion: Croatia's Unrelenting Fighting Spirit Continues to Carry National Hope," 12 July 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.

See More

First Known Use of dark horse

1831, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about dark horse

Statistics for dark horse

Last Updated

14 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for dark horse

The first known use of dark horse was in 1831

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for dark horse

dark horse


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
British : a person who has interesting qualities or abilities that most people do not know about

More from Merriam-Webster on dark horse

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with dark horse

Comments on dark horse

What made you want to look up dark horse? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


an act or instance of editing or removing

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What's that Smell?! Quiz

  • wide eyed dog smelling rose
  • Someone who is hircine smells like a:
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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