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.”
- (idiomatic) Someone who possesses talents or favorable characteristics that are not known or expected by others.
2009, Sophie Kinsella, Twenties Girl: A Novel, London: Black Swan, published 2010, ISBN 978-0-552-77436-9, page 183:
- “Well!” Genevieve laughs – the kind of bright, trilling laugh you give when you’re really quite annoyed about something. “Ed, you are a dark horse! I had no idea you had a girlfriend!”
- (idiomatic, politics) A candidate for an election who is nominated unexpectedly, without previously having been discussed or considered as a likely choice.
- Used other than with a figurative or idiomatic meaning: see dark, horse.
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- ^ Benjamin Disraeli (1831), “Chapter V: Ruined Hopes”, in The Young Duke: A Moral Tale, though Gay (Project Gutenberg; EBook #20008 (4 November 2012)), volume II, London: Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley, New Burlington Street, London; Printed by Samuel Bentley, Dorset Street, Fleet Street, OCLC 7125898.