(in a race) a contestant who fails to win or to place among the first three finishers.
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.
Contemporary Examples

CASEY jumped from also-ran to No. 41 over the past two years.
Top 20 Dog Names of the Future Linda Rosenkrantz February 13, 2010

Post-debate she was 200,000 ahead of the also-ran, the aggressively marketed Anderson Cooper of CNN.
Palin vs. The Power Girls Tina Brown October 4, 2008

The 2008 also-ran is suddenly the hottest Republican in the 2012 presidential field.
Huckabee’s Power Surge Mark McKinnon November 10, 2009

He had made a joke about his movie’s status as also-ran to The Hurt Locker.
Party Hopping Before the Oscars The Daily Beast March 6, 2010

Ten years ago, Apple began its transformation from an also-ran PC maker to a world-beating tech titan.
Welcome to the Anarchy Economy Daniel Gross April 22, 2013

Rand Paul had the benefit of observing both what made his father likable and popular, and what made him an also-ran.
Rand Paul’s Daddy Issues Olivia Nuzzi July 27, 2014

For a time he wrote criticism for Mawaqif, a publication founded by the Syrian poet (and perennial Nobel also-ran) Adonis.
Elias Khoury: Profile of the Essential Arab Novelist Today Jacob Silverman August 2, 2012

The FTC has subpoenaed Google in an antitrust case—the kind of probe that turned Microsoft from king of tech to an also-ran.
Google Faces Antitrust Subpoena Dan Lyons June 22, 2011

a contestant, horse, etc, failing to finish among the first three in a race
an unsuccessful person; loser or nonentity

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.


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]
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.


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