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[awl-soh-ran] /ˈɔl soʊˌræn/
  1. (in a race) a contestant who fails to win or to place among the first three finishers.
  2. an athlete or team whose performance in competition is rarely, if ever, a winning or near-winning one.
Informal. a person who loses a contest, election, or other competition.
Informal. a person who attains little or no success:
For every great artist there are a thousand also-rans.
1895-1900 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for also-ran
  • And yet it's tough to think of the company as anything but an also-ran.
  • He taught everyone to see the developing world not as an also-ran but as a vortex of innovation and creativity.
  • Seems really unfair to be categorized in the also-ran group.
  • The firm was an also-ran in the mergers-and-acquisitions business.
  • How an also-ran made a bet on flat-panel televisions as the critical path to being a major player in electronics.
British Dictionary definitions for also-ran


a contestant, horse, etc, failing to finish among the first three in a race
an unsuccessful person; loser or nonentity
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for also-ran

1896, originally in reference to horse-races, from also + past tense of run (v.). Probably from the way non-placing horses were listed in race results.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for also-ran



A person, competitive product, etc, that does not succeed; a person of mediocre talents; loser

[fr the term for a racehorse who runs fourth or worse]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with also-ran


Loser, failure, unsuccessful individual, as in Jane feared that her candidate, a terrible speaker, would end up as an also-ran, or As for getting promotions, Mark counted himself among the also-rans. This term comes from racing, where it describes a horse that finishes in fourth place or lower or does not finish a race at all. It first appeared in the 1890s in published racing results, and has since been transferred to losers in any kind of competition, and also more broadly to persons who simply don't do well.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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