hiding to nothing

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From horse racing, hiding (beating); to (as used to express gambling odds), e.g., 6 to 1. Literally, the phrase can be described as to bet on a contest whose outcome is at worst a beating, or at best nothing. A heavily favored team in a sporting contest earns no credit for victory, but is shamed by defeat; this team is said to be on a hiding to nothing.


  • (file)


hiding to nothing (plural hidings to nothing)

  1. (idiomatic, Britain, informal) A situation in which victory has little or no value, but defeat has a huge cost.
    • 1915, James Forman Sloan and A. Dick Luckman, Tod Sloan, pages 245:
      It would have been madness to encourage them to back the mare : in fact I was on a hiding to nothing whatever happened.
    • 1931, The Atlantic Monthly, Making of America Project, page 60:
      No legitimate excuse for introduction existed, or could exist, and the odds looked like a hiding to nothing should Bayard attempt to force a meeting […]
    • 1989, Dave Graves, A layman's guide to United Kingdom air traffic control, page 76:
      It is a nasty situation and DFR knows that he is on a good hiding to nothing. He sometimes feels that he is the least understood and most unloved ATCO in [the UK]
    • 2003, Robin Birn, The international handbook of market research techniques, page 543:
      This often makes it a nervous, hiding-to-nothing game in which disasters are so much more memorable than successes
    • 2003, Frank L. Clarke; G. W. Dean, Kyle Gaius Oliver, Corporate collapse: accounting, regulatory and ethical failure, page 39:
      Company directors are on a hiding to nothing when it comes to trusting their reputations to the accounting statements for which they are responsible.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Can be used to describe any contested outcome.