dark horse

See also: darkhorse



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).[1]


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dark horse (plural dark horses)

  1. (idiomatic) Someone who possesses talents or favorable characteristics that are not known or expected by others.
    • 1952, Daphne Du Maurier, “Monte Verità”, in The Apple Tree:
      ‘She’s a dark horse,’ he said. ‘She knows just as much about climbing mountains as you or I. In fact, she was ahead of me the whole time, and I lost her.’
    • 2005, Steve Augarde, Celandine, London: Corgi Books, published 2006, →ISBN, page 13:
      As she pulled the door closed behind her, she heard the nurse say, “Well! You’re a dark horse, I must say! Do you know that extraordinary-looking girl?”
    • 2009, Sophie Kinsella, Twenties Girl: A Novel, London: Black Swan, published 2010, →ISBN, 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!”
  2. (idiomatic, politics) A candidate for an election who is nominated unexpectedly, without previously having been discussed or considered as a likely choice.
  3. (horse racing) A horse whose capabilities are not known.
  4. Used other than with a figurative or idiomatic meaning: see dark,‎ horse.

Derived termsEdit


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.

See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit


  1. ^ Benjamin Disraeli (1831), “Chapter V: Ruined Hopes”, in The Young Duke: A Moral Tale, though Gay[1], volume II, London:
    [] and a dark horse, which had never been thought of, [] rushed past the grand stand in sweeping triumph.