Idiom – Dark Horse

English Idiom – Dark horse.

Meaning – Someone who wins something unexpectedly. A person, animal or thing that competes in something and is not expected to win. A contestant that seems unlikely to succeed or a contestant that we know very little about.

This expression is usually used to describe someone who has unexpectedly come from behind to lead something or to win something.

This phrase originated from horse racing. A dark horse was a horse that was unknown to the gamblers, therefore it was to know what odds it should be.


When could you use this idiom?

  • An unknown athlete is leading an important race.
  • A little known politician is leading in the polls.
  • An amateur singer  is unexpectedly nominated for an award.
  • A small independent movie is nominated for an international award.


  • “Hugo Sanchez is a dark horse to win the FIFA Player of the Year award.”

Horse Idioms:

  • A one-horse town – A small and unimportant place.
  • Change horses in midstream – To change your plans or strategy in the middle of a project or situation.
  • Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth – When you receive a gift, you should be grateful for it and not question its value or quality.
  • Flog a dead horse – To waste time and effort on a task that is no longer productive or effective.
  • Get off your high horse – To stop acting superior or arrogant.
  • Hold your horses – To be patient and wait, or to slow down and not act impulsively.
  • Straight from the horse’s mouth – Information coming from a reliable source, usually someone who is very close to the situation or topic being discussed.
  • Wild horses couldn’t drag me away – Nothing could persuade you to do something or go somewhere that you don’t want to.

In The News:

Why Boygenius (‘The Record’) could be dark horse Grammy contenders for Album of the Year

What is an idiom?

An idiom is a word or phrase that is not taken literally.  An idiom is an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its individual words, but has a separate meaning of its own.

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