Neck And Neck —Meaning and Origin

Meaning:

1. If a competition is neck and neck that means it is very even. In other words, it’s a close game.

Example: This basketball game is exciting. They are neck and neck heading into the 4th quarter and I have no idea who will win.

2. A comparison of two things and their quality is similar.

Example: Cole wants to buy a car with great gas mileage. After doing some research, he has narrowed down his choices to two options. Both remaining cars are neck and neck in terms of gas mileage, so he went with the blue one because it’s his favorite color.

Synonyms / Similar Phrases:

1. Come down to the wire
2. Photo-finish
3. Nail-biter

Horses racing neck and neck.

The Origin Of ‘Neck and Neck’

The expression “neck and neck” is a term in horse racing. It’s used when two or more horses are running alongside each other towards the finish line. When the horses are evenly matched, running side by side, they are said to be “neck and neck.” So it’s believed that horse racing is where this phrase comes from.

As for how old this saying is, it goes back to at least the early to mid-19th century. For example, the earliest I’ve seen this phrase in print is from the Tasmanian and Port Dalrymple Advertiser newspaper, 1825:

“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.”

​While this phrase might have got its start in horse racing, it is now used for any competition or comparison that is evenly matched (e.g., this basketball game is neck and neck).


Example Sentences

  • Bella baked two kinds of cookies: macadamia nut and chocolate chip. In terms of deliciousness, they are both neck and neck. However, if I had to pick a winner, I’d go with the chocolate chip.

Similar Example:

  • For my favorite snack, I think it is a photo-finish between chips and pretzels.

Tip: Know Your Phrase has the meanings and origins for phrases. I guess that’s not too surprising considering this website is about common expressions. Anyways, if you want to go through the list of available phrases on here, go to the menu at the top and choose a relevant letter.


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