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What Does “To Give A Run For Someone’s Money” Mean?

What Does “To Give A Run For Someone’s Money” Mean?

It is normal to hear people use phrases and idioms in the streets. Expressions make oral communication more accessible, but they are also instrumental in conversations through social media and other means of communication. We can also find them on different virtual platforms such as newspapers and magazines. In this article, we will talk about the meaning and use of the phrase “to run for someone’s money.”

“To give a run for someone’s money” refers to not letting yourself be won so quickly in a game, competition, in an argument, and so on. It is making your opponent feel like it is challenging for them to try to defeat you or surpass you at something.

The symbolic meaning of this phrase is very different from its literal meaning. That is why it is vital to learn how to use it to avoid any misunderstandings.

What Is The Origin Of This Idiom?

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This phrase originated in the 1800s, and according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), this idiom comes from horse racing. Back then, the term “to give a run for someone’s money” meant that you wanted the horse you were betting on to participate in the race.

Sometimes horses were withdrawn from races after bettors had put their money into them. And this is what they meant by the phrase, those bettors “didn’t run their money.”

The first evidence cited by the OED gives the phrase in its figurative use is:

“1874 Slang Dict. 274 To have a run for one’s money is also to have a good determined struggle for anything.”

More recent evidence is in the following excerpt cited by the OED in a 2007 racing post where you can find the expression.

On the contrary, giving someone a shot for their money provides a good run (even if they lose) in exchange for their endorsement. This meaning also means that a horse can be a challenge for the other in the race.

We can find another fragment of a more contemporary text of this use, also cited by the OED:

“2009 Herald-Times (Bloomington, Indiana) 15 May d4/4 A home-wrecking catfight to give Uma Thurman and Daryl Hannah a run for their money.”

How Is This Idiom Used Today?

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Like many idioms, “to give a run for someone’s money” has changed over time. It means that people give it a new connotation, which in many cases has no direct relation to its literal meaning.

As we already know, in the beginning, this phrase was used by bettors in horse racing. Nowadays, people use it daily to say that it is difficult for you to beat someone or that something represents a challenge.

We can see an example of the use of this phrase in the following conversation:

A: Hey, man! Did you watch the game last night?. It was exciting.

B: Yeah, mate! You’re right. It was a good game. Both teams played great, although I expected the blue team to beat the red team effortlessly.

A: I also expected the same. But the red team gave a run for the blue team’s money.

In the conversation, we can see that one of the people uses the phrase. This person uses it to refer to that they expected one team to win without any effort. But what happened was that the other team was a challenge. They did not allow them to win so easily.

Examples Of “To Give A Run For Someone’s Money” In A Sentence

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Here are some examples of how to use the phrase in sentences in different situations:

  • You almost lost by being overconfident. John gave a run for his money.
  • You were very careless in thinking that you could win easily. That’s why your opponent gave a run for their money.
  • The attorney thought he would win the case without a hitch, but the defendant’s defense made a run for his money.
  • Not having studied for the exam made me give a run for my money.
  • Everyone thinks The Lord of the Rings movie will win the best film award this year, but I guess some outstanding ones will give it a run for its money.
  • Apple has one of the best-operating systems on the market. Still, Google’s operating system gives them a run for their money.
  • Do not think you are the best because someone may appear to give you a run for your money.
  • My son is at the age where he asks me a lot. His questions give my patience a run for his money.
  • I think you can take on the greats and give them a run for their money.
  • If you want to give him a run for his money, you have to look for his weak points.
  • Whenever I argue with my wife, she gives me a run for my money. Although I’m right, I feel like she has better arguments.
  • I studied hard today to give that exam a run for its money.
  • You gave the thieves who tried to rob you last night a run for their money. You didn’t let them take your belongings.

In Sports And Competitions

  • No one could hit a home run because the pitcher gave the hitters a run for their money.
  • Your team is excellent. You were about to win, and you gave the other team a run for their money.
  • If you stay undefeated any longer, you will keep giving the competition a run for their money.
  • Although Michael won second place, he gave the other runners a run for their money.
  • The fight was close. Carlos almost beat his opponent. He gave a run for his money.
  • He’s getting a lot better at basketball. Yesterday we played, and I won, but he gave me a run for my money.
  • Mary wins the cooking competition every year, but I think I’ll give her a run for her money with my secret recipe this year.
  • We cannot underestimate the members of the opposing team. I think they will give us a run for our money.
  • My brother is a lot better at fighting video games than I am, but I always give him a run for his money. I never let him beat me so quickly.
  • I am not afraid of losing the competition because I have trained a lot. No matter how good my opponents are, I will give them a run for their money.
  • She is very good at spelling, but I think I’m on the same level as her. So I’ll give her a run for her money.
  • It will be easy to beat them in this debate. I don’t think your opponent will give us a run for our money. So don’t worry.
  • This university made a great team defeat us. That means they are going to give us a run for our money. But we cannot let ourselves win. We must fight until victory.
  • You have to stop thinking about how Mike defeated you. Even though you didn’t win, you gave him a run for his money.

Synonyms For “To Give A Run For Someone’s Money”

Several words and expressions have the same meaning or connotation as the phrase “to give a run for someone’s money.”

  • Compete
    • Example: You can’t compete against me because I will beat you quickly and without any effort.
  • Stand
    • Example: The fighter cannot stand against the strongest contender. With a single blow, they will knock him down.
  • Contend
    • Example: Team A was incredibly able to contend with team B. You can tell they prepared for this match. They indeed trained very hard.
  • Be a candidate
    • Example: She is an excellent candidate to represent the whole class. She studies hard and gets perfect grades.
  • Put yourself up for
    • Example: Carlos always puts himself up for any situation in life.
  • Challenge
    • Example: Winning was a challenge for me. I had to work very hard to accomplish it.
      • He has become terrific at tennis. He almost beat me in yesterday’s game. The boy gave me a run for my money.


Idioms are very useful for having fluent conversations. In both formal and informal discussions, we can make use of these. That is why it is essential to know and use them in our day-to-day lives.

At first, bettors used this phrase, and then it was modified over time by people until it reached its current meaning. Although its current definition does not resemble its literal meaning, people understand and know when to use it correctly.

From now on, when you hear the idiom “to give a run for someone’s money,” you know it refers to competitions. For this reason, when you feel that something or someone is challenging you, you can use this phrase freely.

You can also use the phrase when you want to say that something is difficult for you, but you still succeed.

Therefore, even if you feel that something gives someone a career for your money, always try to overcome it and not let yourself be beaten so easily. You could give it a run for its money too.


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