Is the expression "(someone is a) bad loser" valid?
If it is valid, is it equal to "sore loser", or does it have a different meaning and/or use?

  • 1
    Define "valid".
    – Drew
    Jan 22, 2017 at 0:51

4 Answers 4


"Bad loser" does indeed mean the same as "sore loser", but I'd suggest that the former is more common in the UK, whereas the latter is more common in the US.

  • 3
    Yes, 'sore loser' isn't idiomatic in the UK.
    – Benjol
    Nov 16, 2010 at 8:51
  • 4
    To my ear (UK-raised, but lived a while in US) there is a slight shade of difference between the two: “bad loser” describes a character trait, whereas “sore loser” more often describes the way someone is currently behaving. (Like a subtler version of the difference between being bad-tempered and being angry.) So I’d be more likely to say “I don’t think much of Judy, she’s such a bad loser”, but “Crikey, Judy’s being such a sore loser about those Christmas presents!”, or “Stop being such a sore loser!”.
    – PLL
    Jan 17, 2011 at 22:37

"Sore loser" is a more common idiom to describe someone who acts badly when they don't win. But "bad loser" can also be used to describe this, and is transparent in meaning. I have heard "bad loser" from time to time, but "sore loser" is much more common, simply because it is an idiom that has been around a long time.

  • 1
    Agree with Kosmonaut, plus we have the expression 'poor sport' to denote the same.
    – user65624
    Feb 12, 2014 at 13:44

"Poor" loser is frequently heard, and to my mind more precise than "sore". Being "sore" is a symptom of being poor at, bad at, ungraceful at, losing. It describes the resulting condition rather than the ability. "Bad" is certainly common.


Sore loser is a more common expression than bad loser.

You hear and say things like "this fish tastes bad." or "This is a bad idea."

So, bad loser would only make sense if the character was a bad person. I don't believe "bad loser" makes much sense in your case. I would even go so far as to say you're better off using "poor loser." While it may technically be okay to write and use "bad" loser, it doesn't make much sense.

I once used "bad loser" in a story I was writing and my professor goes "What's bad about him being a loser? What's the backstory, is he a bad person?"

I forget the word he used, but he essentially said something like: "Pork fried rice is bad, a failing grade is bad, being a pervert is bad. Being a loser cannot be defined as 'bad' and is more subjective than anything." Again, this was back when I was in college, so excuse the lack of accuracy, he explained it way better than myself.

The dictionary defines bad as: of poor quality or a low standard.

You're kind of restating the statement twice.

In technical translation, it's like you're saying "He's a bad poor loser." Loser already establishes the fact that, well... he's a loser.

The dictionary defines sore as: extremely; severely. (of a part of one's body) painful or aching.

So in technical translation: "He's painfully stupid; a severe loser."

Essentially, my thought is that you should stick with poor or sore. It's not that "bad loser" cannot be interpreted to mean sore loser, it's just that people don't always look at that the same way.

As an English-focused major in college, I learned that what may be wrong in one place may just sound different, but will not necessarily be wrong somewhere else.

To answer your question: it's valid to say "bad" loser but it may not make sense to a lot of people as it's not common everywhere, definitely not as common as "sore" loser.

  • As Steve Melnikoff has said in his answer above bad loser is more common in the UK but sore loser is more common in the US. Your language and your descripton of yourself as an English-focused major show that you are American so you tend not to be exposed to British english as much as we are more exposed to American english via the media. If you are writing for a US audience you should probably use sore user but if you are writing for a British audience you should use bad loser. Which is preferred in other english-speaking countries like Canada or Australia I wouldn't like to say.
    – BoldBen
    Jan 22, 2017 at 22:44
  • You're absolutely right! Which is what I was trying to say in the last bits of my answer. :-) Thank you for chiming in/clarifying. Jan 22, 2017 at 23:08

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