from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. One who achieves unexpected support and success as a political candidate, typically during a party's convention.
  • n. A little-known, unexpectedly successful entrant, as in a horserace.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A candidate who is nominated unexpectedly, without previously having been discussed or considered as a likely choice.
  • n. An unexpected success.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a political candidate who is not well known but could win unexpectedly
  • n. a racehorse about which little is known


Originally an allusion to an unknown horse winning a race, as used in an 1831 novel The Young Duke by Benjamin Disraeli. (Wiktionary)


  • Curley’s old mouth pouted contemptuously as she considered them: John with his irascibility, his pomposity and his moments of sheer obstinacy; Paul lathering and shouting and making an exhibition of himself; and now the dark horse Mike, who had never really wanted anything before.

    Flowers for the Judge


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