Back the Wrong Horse

Also: Bet on the wrong horse

Meaning of Idiom

Back the Wrong Horse: to make the wrong choice concerning who or what you support and to support a person or action that is later unsuccessful; to make a wrong choice; to guess wrongly concerning the final outcome. 1McIntosh, Colin. Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. Cambridge University Press, 2013. 2Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010. 3Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.


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Usage

The idiom is widely used to refer to political races and any situation where the outcome is uncertain.

Examples:

“I backed the wrong horse in last year’s election.”

“Investing in such an unproven product was a mistake. He really backed the wrong horse on that one.”

Back the wrong horse idiom

Origin

In this idiom, the word back is used in the sense of “support.” To back a horse is to support its chances of winning a race, which, in horse racing, usually entails the intention of betting on the horse to win. Thus, to “bet on the wrong horse” has the same meaning. In regards to wagering on horses, the expression has been used since the late 1600’s.

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Sources   [ + ]

1. McIntosh, Colin. Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. Cambridge University Press, 2013.
2. Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.
3. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.