Neck And Neck —Meaning and Origin


If a competition is “neck and neck” it means that it is very even; it’s a close game.

This is also a term used in horse racing. It refers to two or more horses that are running side by side with each other.

Example: If someone compared the gas mileage between two cars, and they both are about the same, then it might be said that these two cars are neck and neck in terms of their gas mileage.

Synonyms / Related Phrases:
Come down to the wire
Nip and tuck
Horses racing neck and neck.
This is a close race, who will win?

The Origin Of ‘Neck and Neck’

The origin of this phrase appear to be from horse racing, where two or more horses that are evenly matched might run closely together towards the finish line, side by side. When this happens, the horses are said to be ‘neck and neck.’

This saying goes back to at least the early to mid-19th century. At that time, it was a term commonly used in horse races. For example, the earliest I could find of this phrase in writing comes from the Tasmanian and Port Dalrymple Advertiser newspaper, printed in 1825, and it is indeed being used in connection with a horse race:

“The owners rode their respective horses, and the race was said to be the finest ever witnessed on this turf, both horses keeping neck and neck round the course.”

​Today, this expression might be used in comparisons, or in reference to other types of competitions that are close, such as a basketball game.

Example Sentence(s)

  1. Ericka made a fresh batch of oatmeal cookies this morning. She made chocolate chip cookies too. In terms of flavor, I’d say they are both neck and neck. But If I had to pick a winner, I’d go with the chocolate chip.

Note: Know Your Phrase has the meanings and origins for phrases, yes indeed. However, there are times when the origins of a expression are unknown. Well then, what happens in cases like that? This: What you will see included on the page is an explanation that talks about how a saying may have come to be.

If there is no explanation on the page, then usually there will at least be a quote of the term being used in writing. These quotes are usually the oldest known citations of the expression being used in writing.

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