I am looking for a word to explain the following idea:

To lose any competition to an opponent who succeeds despite having no idea that they have overcome incredible odds against them to succeed.

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    You looking for a word that describes the winner or the loser? More context would help. Can you please provide an example sentence? – BiscuitBoy Jan 11 '16 at 6:22
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    Yes @beldaz - I edited it to bring in clarity. Thanks! – BiscuitBoy Jan 11 '16 at 9:07
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    In that case @BiscuitBoy, Thanks for your unambiguous edit ;-) – beldaz Jan 11 '16 at 9:12
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    Veteran XX was humiliated (suffered humiliating defeat) by newcomer YY in last night's match. – Benjamin Harman Jan 11 '16 at 11:49
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    The most common words a loser uses to describe such an unfortunate circumstance: "Beginner's luck!" – Benjamin Harman Jan 11 '16 at 11:56

15 Answers 15


Not quite what is asked for, but my first thought.

Aboyne (vb.)

To beat an expert at a game of skill by playing so appallingly that none of his clever tactics or strategies are of any use to him.


from The Meaning of Liff by Douglas Adams

  • This was my first thought too :) – Tetsujin Jan 11 '16 at 11:44
  • I'd upvote twice if I could for the Meaning of Liff reference, nicely done! – BruceWayne Jan 11 '16 at 18:08
  • You beat me to it! – CJ Dennis Jan 12 '16 at 2:34
  • I haven't heard of this term before! A google search fetches results of a village in Scotland! How's it pronounced? Any etymology for this word? Can you update this answer with these details, please? – BiscuitBoy Jan 12 '16 at 5:09
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    it is a village in Scotland, the book Meaning of Liff is a mock dictionary. giving amusing descriptions for the names of geographic locations. – Jasen Jan 12 '16 at 7:51

The game itself or the act of losing can be called an upset.

Merriam Webster defines it as:

an occurrence in which a game, contest, etc., is won by a person or team that was expected to lose

Cambridge Dictionaries defines it similarly:

an ​occasion when someone ​beats the ​team or ​player that was ​expected to ​win

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    This is a word I've actually heard before. – Ypnypn Jan 11 '16 at 16:28
  • This is commonly used in UK. – Simba Jan 12 '16 at 11:12

Well to succeed despite idiocy is called pulling a Homer.

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To lose to someone pulling a Homer might be called pulling a Frank Grimes.

I'm saying you're what's wrong with America, Simpson. You coast through life, you do as little as possible, and you leech off of decent, hardworking people like me. Heh, if you lived in any other country in the world, you'd have starved to death long ago. You're a fraud, a total fraud.

―Frank Grimes


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    A good candidate, but I don't think it's achieved as wide cultural cachet as "cromulent" or "embiggen" :) – recognizer Jan 11 '16 at 17:19
  • I had always thought "to pull a homer" was to pull off a baseball homerun.. something I had considered an "unlikely but huge success".. now I feel silly. – DoubleDouble Jan 11 '16 at 23:00
  • Though it is perfectly cromulent to upvote anything to do with the Simpsons, despite the popular culture reference I would hate to think that this answer is the best option that the rich English language has to offer. – dotancohen Jan 12 '16 at 13:06

This could be considered beginner's luck.

The online Cambridge Dictionary defines it as:

unexpected ​success ​experienced by a ​person who is just ​starting a ​particular ​activity

  • Would it be with an apostrophe, "beginner's luck"? – ErikE Jan 12 '16 at 1:45

David and Goliath

used for describing a situation in which a small person or organization defeats a much larger one in a surprising way

Macmillan Dictionary

From the biblical story in which Goliath, a giant, is killed by the boy David with a stone.


You can find more information about this term on this very website - What do you mean by the phrase David vs. Goliath?

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    not a good example!! David was small, but was neither inexperienced nor naive! He was very experienced and had a good plan. He was more of a hero than lucky naive don't-know-how winner. – Tomas Jan 11 '16 at 11:38
  • And the OP never said anything about inexperience or naivety – Charon Jan 11 '16 at 12:43
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    Goliath never had a chance. David killed him with superior technology. – kevin cline Jan 11 '16 at 18:46
  • Goliath had about the same odds of winning that fight as the guy who pulled a sword on Indiana Jones, and for the same basic reason. The only surprising thing about the battle was that he never seemed to realize just how screwed he was until it was too late. – Mason Wheeler Jan 11 '16 at 20:13
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    I have no interest in the biblical story. This is not a theology forum. I am talking about the popular phrase which originated from it - its definition is written above. Please note that the OP made no request about inexperience. Please understand that I was making no theological commentary. – Charon Jan 12 '16 at 8:42

In Australia, this is sometimes called "doing a Bradbury", and while this might not be exactly what you were looking for, the story is too good not to be shared!

In Australian English ‘to do a Bradbury’ is to become the unlikely winner of a contest or to accidentally achieve success, (...)

So what did the original Bradbury do to achieve his place in the Australian lexicon?

In an unlikely series of events, short-track speed skater Steven Bradbury became the first Australian to win a gold medal at a Winter Olympics. (...)

The whole story on ozwords.com (The video is worth watching!)


Well, if you are looking for an unorthodox or an informal phrase or a word, you could use "to pull a homer". (Previously suggested by CandiedOrange) For Ex: Donald Trump becoming a president can serve as a prime example of someone pulling a homer.

And if you want something more formal(something that's taken from an animated sitcom), i believe "Fluke" comes close to the word you are looking for.

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    Well, this has been already suggested by CandiedOrange – BiscuitBoy Jan 11 '16 at 6:36
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    They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. – candied_orange Jan 11 '16 at 7:15

To Blow it -

He champion blew it against a total novice.



Despite the word's original usage pointing toward behaving dishonestly, I've seen the word 'cheated' used to describe a loss in the manner the OP has mentioned.

"He was cheated out of winning the title by a rookie."

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    This may be a common usage, but it has a lot of unwelcome associations. For instance, making this statement suggests that the speaker believes that a longtime veteran of a competition "deserves" to win, regardless of whether their skill or performance is superior. That's not even getting into the somewhat inevitable implication that the rookie in question actually cheated... – recognizer Jan 11 '16 at 17:21

In my native dialect, we would say he "fluked it". I don't know whether that's in use outside of the Canadian Prairies.


How about flub? In its sense of "to fail utterly at something you should have succeeded easily."

Possibly also choke, although that doesn't quite capture the competition itself, just the act of playing far below usual skill level.


A few ideas:

Abased (pp)

Reduced to a low state, humbled, degraded. *

Upset (vi)

To overturn; to overthrow; to overset; as a carriage.

(Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1828))

Botch (n)


  1. Work done in a bungling manner; a clumsy performance; a piece of work, or a place in work, marred in the doing, or not properly finished; a bungle.

Bungle (n)

A clumsy or awkward performance; a botch; a gross blunder.

Blunder (vi)

  1. To make a gross error or mistake; as, to blunder in writing or preparing a medical prescription. Swift.
  2. To move in an awkward, clumsy manner; to flounder and stumble.

(Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913))

Some related ideas:

Flub, fail, falter, fluke, choke, drubbed, humiliated, embarrassed, disappointed, stumble


To snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Wiktionary.org defines it as

(idiomatic) To suddenly lose a contest one seemed very likely to win, especially through mistakes or bad judgment.



To fail to perform effectively because of nervous agitation or tension, especially in an athletic contest

This is from the perspective of the person who loses (which seems correct by your question), but is somewhat specific and doesn't address that there is an opponent with less skill (or an opponent at all). Notwithstanding that, to me it gets at the gist of losing against someone inferior despite superior skill.


at my old fencing club we used to call the tendency for beginners to do unreasonably well against seasoned fencers "muppet factor"

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