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.
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Recent Examples on the Web The choice to make a direct listing on the Nasdaq, rather than raising money on a road show through a traditional initial public offering, squares with Coinbase’s dark horse image. Washington Post, "Coinbase going public could signal new era for cryptocurrency," 14 Apr. 2021 The Masked Singer's wild card Orca had some ground to make up, but his first performance instantly put him in dark horse territory. Ariana Brockington, refinery29.com, "The Masked Singer Orca Is Definitely A ’90s Rocker," 24 Mar. 2021 The dark horse is Bellingham, which is young and went 3-8 last year, but pushed Norton to the brink in a 14-13 loss on Thanksgiving. BostonGlobe.com, "The Eastern Mass. ‘Fall II’ high school football season starts Friday. Here’s a league-by-league preview," 10 Mar. 2021 Junior quarterback Zach Wilson has gone from obscurity to dark horse Heisman candidate. Erick Smith, USA TODAY, "USA TODAY Sports midseason college football awards," 28 Oct. 2020 What to look for: Many observers had pegged the Chargers as the dark horse to win last year’s state title, had the Sweet 16 not been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Jason Frakes, The Courier-Journal, "KHSAA Girls Sweet 16: What to know about the Bullitt East-Bethlehem first-round showdown," 7 Apr. 2021 Cawthorn burst onto the political scene as a dark horse in the crowded primary last year for the seat left open when Meadows became Trump’s White House chief of staff. Jess Bidgood, BostonGlobe.com, "In three Republican districts, a view of Trump’s continued dominance in the party," 27 Feb. 2021 Another prolific passer, BYU’s Zach Wilson, has moved up to third and could be emerging as a dark horse. Eddie Timanus, USA TODAY, "Heisman Watch: Alabama's Mac Jones gains ground on Clemson's Trevor Lawrence," 20 Oct. 2020 Probably ‘adopting’ a dark horse/cinderella candidate to make some noise in the tournament. Mike Bass, The Enquirer, "Mike Bass column: Xavier a 'nightmare'? UC in 'tatters'? Fans react to a new madness.," 18 Mar. 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.

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First Known Use of dark horse

1831, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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Time Traveler for dark horse

Time Traveler

The first known use of dark horse was in 1831

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Statistics for dark horse

Last Updated

5 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Dark horse.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dark%20horse. Accessed 7 May. 2021.

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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

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Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for dark horse

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