Open main menu

Wiktionary β




Horses racing at Musselburgh Racecourse in Musselburgh, East Lothian, Scotland, UK. The phrase horses for courses alludes to the fact that a racehorse performs best on a racecourse to which it is specifically suited.

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”, in The Independent[1], London, archived from the original on 21 November 2017:
      Not long ago, a group of Thames-side penthouses went up for sale with giveaway Ducati motorbikes worth £13,000 apiece. [] "In many cases giveaways are horses for courses, the inducements matching the styles of properties being marketed," he [David Hollingworth of London and Country Mortgages] adds.
    • 2014 November 10, Helen Coffey, “What does Mick Hucknall have that other men lack?”, in The Daily Telegraph[2], London, archived from the original on 11 March 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 – but no one's going to start arguing forcefully that Mick [Hucknall]'s ever been 'classically handsome'.


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”, in The Guardian[3], London, archived from the original on 5 March 2016:
      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 [Alki Manias of NetValue] said.
    • 2013 January 12, Ivan Hewett, “John Zorn: Master of all styles and none”, in The Daily Telegraph[4], London, archived from the original on 15 March 2016:
      However intense music becomes, there's always a limit to how far it can go. And that limit is marked out by its genre or style. [] It's an age-old rule, this insistence on "horses for courses", but in the modern era many musicians have become impatient with it. They dream of a music that knows no limits, which can do everything, all at once.

Usage notesEdit

Although this term is, strictly, a noun phrase, it is often used as if it were a sentence expressing a proverb.

The 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.

Alternative formsEdit

See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit