The phrase comes from the world of horse race betting wherein lists of winners would be published with all non-paying positions printed in a block under the heading 'Also Ran:'.
- A person or animal who competed in a race but did not win.
- Figuratively, a loser; one soon to be forgotten.
- 1960: It also turned Palmer from an also-ran into a challenger. — 'Nerves of Steel', The New York Times, 18 June, 1960
- 1978: some of Mr. Scorsese's accomplishments have been so stunning—that it's impossible to view "The Last Waltz" as anything but an also-ran. — Janet Maslin, The New York Times, review of The Last Waltz, April 26, 1978
- 1993: And, of course, it is also far easier, quicker, and less embarrassing to dismiss an also-ran over the phone than it is in person — Martin Yate, Hiring the Best, Adams Media, 1993, page 58
- 1998: as the drug came out of the R&D laboratory, it could have been just another also-ran — Richard C Dorf, The Technology Management Handbook, CRC Press, 1998, page 3-40
- 2004: The transition from comer to also-ran can be quick — The New Yorker, August 9 & 16, 2004, p.40