I have heard the term "Better than Best" used at few places.

How is it different than saying just "best"?

For example :
a) He is better than the best.
b) He is the best.

1) How are (a) and (b) different?
2) Can they be used interchangebly?
3) From (a) it looks like it implies (b) .. Is it always the case ? Any Exceptions?
4) What is the correct usage of the term "Better than Best"?

3 Answers 3


1) (a) implies that there is an established best that this person is even better than, (b) is a claim that the person is better than all others

2) In many cases, they can be, but 'better than the best' is poetic whereas 'he is the best' is straightforward

3) I would say yes, (a) always implies (b), at least speaking logically. One might say something like 'he's not the best... he's better than the best' to be poetic though.

4) I don't think 'better than best' is a common phrase without having 'the' in there, but 'better than the best' is a relatively common expression. The reason is that here 'the best' refers to an understood best or a presumed best.


"Who's the new guy?" "That's the man who's going to win the tournament." "This tournament has the best players in the world in it!" "This guy is even better than the best."

If you were spelling it all out literally, what's actually being said here is that there is a new best.

Sometimes it's also used to indicate that there is something qualitatively different that is superior.

"These cigarettes are the best." "You should try not smoking, it's better than the best cigarette."


A different take on the phrase:

Better than best is sometimes used as a hyperbole (exaggeration), in the same way one might say "I'm one thousand percent sure!"

  • Good addition. I meant to mention this as an additional case.
    – Charles W
    May 14, 2012 at 17:05

Better than the best simply means even though there is something or someone adjudged best, another exists that is better than it. Example, That pianist is the best in this concert, but that man leaning over there is better than the best.

  • This doesn't add anything new to the existing answers.
    – Joachim
    Aug 9, 2022 at 22:24

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