Where Did the Term “Upset” For an Underdog Victory Come From and What Does the Word Mean?

The word upset means to be unhappy or tipped over.

It had nothing to do with sports until August 13, 1919.

In his seventh race, the great horse Man o’ War, who had defeated all of the other greats of his day by fifteen lengths or more, fell victim to an inexperienced starter and lost the race to an unknown competitor named Upset.

From then on, upset became synonymous with a victorious underdog.

Man o’ War retired with a record of twenty wins and only that one loss to Upset.

He retired as a three-year-old, lived to be thirty, and became one of the greatest sires in the history of horse racing.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

1 thought on “Where Did the Term “Upset” For an Underdog Victory Come From and What Does the Word Mean?”

  1. This has been definitively shown to be false: an upset victory is one that upsets (or overturns) expectations, and the term was in use in sports at least several decades before 1919. See the Wikipedia article on “upset”.

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