- a horse that fails to finish first, second, or third in a race
- Informal any loser in any competition
- A horse that does not win, place, or show in a race.
- A loser in a competition, as in an election: “What separates the chess champions from the also-rans &ellipsis; ?” (Paul Tough).
- One that has little talent or success: just an also-ran in the art world.
The phrase comes from the world of horse race betting wherein lists of winners would be published with all non-paying positions printed in a block under the heading 'Also Ran:'.