horses for courses

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An allusion to the fact that a racehorse performs best on a racecourse to which it is specifically suited.


horses for courses

  1. (chiefly Britain, idiomatic) Different people are suited for different jobs or situations; what is fitting in one case may not be fitting in another.
    • 2003 May 14, Christopher Browne, "Bonanza time for home buyers," Independent (UK) (retrieved 6 Sep 2015):
      "In many cases giveaways are horses for courses, the inducements matching the styles of properties being marketed," he adds.
    • 2014 Nov. 10, Helen Coffey, "What does Mick Hucknall have that other men lack?," Telegraph (UK) (retrieved 6 Sep 2015):
      Far be it from me to judge what anyone else finds attractive—each to their own, horses for courses, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and any number of similar well-meaning platitudes.


horses for courses pl (plural only)

  1. (chiefly Britain, idiomatic) The practice of choosing the best person for a particular job, the best response for a situation, or the best means to achieve a specific end.
    • 2002 March 13, Sarah Left, "Email beats snail mail for residential use ," Guardian (UK) (retrieved 6 Sep 2015):
      Emailed greeting cards and digital photos may be more acceptable now, but are not a substitute for the post on every occasion. "People will still want to pour their heart out in letter or want that special photo of a grandchild. It's horses for courses," he said.
    • 2013 Jan. 12, Ivan Hewett, "John Zorn: master of all styles and none," Telegraph (UK) (retrieved 6 Sep 2015):
      It’s an age-old rule, this insistence on “horses for courses”, but in the modern era many musicians . . . dream of a music that knows no limits, which can do everything, all at once.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Although this term is, strictly, a noun phrase, it is often used as if it were a sentence expressing a proverb.
  • The chiasmus "courses for horses" is less used.
  • This term is widely used in the foreign-language translation industry, where a translator is selected for a job not solely based on his or her fluency in a language, but also based on knowledge of the subject matter.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]