dark horse

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See also: darkhorse


John Frederick Herring, Sr., ‘Charles XII’ and ‘Euclid’, The Decisive Heat for the Great St Leger Stakes at Doncaster, 1839


Originally an allusion to an unknown horse with a dark coat winning a race, as used in the 1831 novel The Young Duke by Benjamin Disraeli (1804–1881): “ [] and a dark horse, which had never been thought of, [] rushed past the grand stand in sweeping triumph.”[1]


dark horse (plural dark horses)

  1. (idiomatic) Someone who possesses talents or favorable characteristics that are not known or expected by others.
  2. (idiomatic, politics) A candidate for an election who is nominated unexpectedly, without previously having been discussed or considered as a likely choice.
  3. Used other than with a figurative or idiomatic meaning: see dark,‎ horse.

Derived terms[edit]


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Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ Benjamin Disraeli (1831), “Chapter V: Ruined Hopes”, in The Young Duke: A Moral Tale, though Gay (Project Gutenberg; EBook #20008 (4 November 2012))[1], volume II, London: Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley, New Burlington Street, London; Printed by Samuel Bentley, Dorset Street, Fleet Street, OCLC 7125898.