Posted by Smokey Stover on November 03, 2004

In Reply to: Runner-up posted by Shae on November 03, 2004

: : : Please can someone tell me where the term 'Runner-Up' comes from - I can't find it anywhere and it's driving me mad!!

: : I haven't found anything that explains why "up."

: I found the following in the online Etymological dictionary:

: Fast (adj.)
: O.E. fæst "firmly fixed, steadfast," probably from P.Gmc. *fastuz (cf. O.N. fastr, Du. vast, Ger. fest), from PIE base *past- "firm" (cf. Skt. pastyam "dwelling place"). The adv. meaning "quickly, swiftly" was perhaps in O.E., or from O.N. fast, either way developing from the sense of "firmly, strongly, vigorously" (cf. to run hard means to run fast; also compare fast asleep), or perhaps from the notion of a runner who "sticks" close to whatever he is chasing.

: runner
: c.1300, from run (v.). Meaning "smuggler" first recorded 1721; sense of "embroidered cloth for a table" is from 1889. Runner-up is from 1842, originally in dog racing.


From the OED: "1890 A. R. STARR in Upland Shooting 471 The dog last running with the winner is called the runner up, because he ran through the races up to the last race without being defeated once." This is one of several citations referring to the runner-up as one (one animal, often) that won each of several heats or trials until the last, when it came in second. Personally, I like to think it means the one who came running up just after the winner crossed the line. Obviously it is used figuratively in all sorts of contests, such as beauty pageants, when number two comes running up to congratulate the one wearing the tiara, or the best turnip contest at the state fair, where no running is done at all. SS