in the running


  1. the act of a person, animal, or thing that runs.
  2. managing or directing: the running of a business.
  3. an act or instance of racing: the 113th running of the Kentucky Derby.
  4. the condition of a track or surface to be run or raced on; footing: Our track team had muddy running today.
  5. the amount, quality, or type of a liquid flow.


  1. galloping, racing, moving, or passing rapidly.
  2. (of a horse)
    1. going or proceeding rapidly at the gait of a gallop.
    2. taught to proceed at a gallop.
  3. creeping or climbing, as plants: a running vine.
  4. moving or proceeding easily or smoothly.
  5. moving when pulled or hauled, as a rope.
  6. slipping or sliding easily, as a knot or a noose.
  7. operating or functioning, as a machine.
  8. (of measurement) linear; straight-line.
  9. cursive, as handwriting.
  10. flowing, as a stream.
  11. liquid or fluid.
  12. present; current: the running month.
  13. prevalent, as a condition or state: running prices.
  14. going or carried on continuously; sustained: a running commentary.
  15. extending or repeated continuously: a running pattern.
  16. performed with or during a run: a running leap.
  17. discharging pus or other matter: a running sore.
  18. Nautical. noting any of various objects or assemblages of objects that may be moved in ordinary use: running bowsprit; running gaff.
  19. Nautical, Machinery.
    1. noting any block of a tackle that moves.
    2. noting the part of the fall of a tackle that moves through the blocks (opposed to standing).


  1. in succession; consecutively: He slept badly for three nights running.
  1. in the running,
    1. participating or entered as a competitor.
    2. under consideration as a candidate or possible choice: Who is still in the running for the directorship?
    3. among the winners or those making a good showing.
  2. out of the running,
    1. not competing in a contest or race.
    2. not among the winners or runners-up in a contest or race: to finish out of the running.


  1. maintained continuously; incessanta running battle; running commentary
  2. (postpositive) without interruption; consecutivehe lectured for two hours running
  3. denoting or relating to the scheduled operation of a public vehiclethe running time of a train
  4. accomplished at a runa running jump
  5. (of a knot) sliding along the rope from which it is made, so as to form a noose which becomes smaller when the rope is pulled
  6. (of a wound, sore, etc) discharging pus or a serous fluid
  7. denoting or relating to operations for maintenancerunning repairs
  8. prevalent; currentrunning prices
  9. repeated or continuousa running design
  10. (of certain plants, plant stems, etc) creeping along the ground
  11. flowingrunning water
  12. (of handwriting) having the letters run together


  1. management or organizationthe running of a company
  2. operation or maintenancethe running of a machine
  3. competition or a competitive situation (in the phrases in the running, out of the running)
  4. make the running to set the pace in a competition or race
  5. rare the power or ability to run

Old English ærning, verbal noun from run (v.); to be in (or out) of the running “among” (or “not among”) “the lead competitors in a race” (1863) is a metaphor from horse racing, where make the running “set the pace” is recorded from 1837. Running shoe is from 1884.


present participle adjective from run (v.). Running mate originally was a horse entered in a race to set the pace for another from the same stable who was intended to win (1865); U.S. vice-presidential sense is recorded from 1888. Running dog first recorded 1937, from Chinese and North Korean communist phrases used to describe supposed imperialist lackeys, cf. Mandarin zou gou “running dog,” on the notion of a dog that runs at its master’s command. Running board first attested 1817, in reference to ships and boats; 1907 of cars and trucks.


Entered as a competitor in a contest. For example, Is Mary in the running for this election? The antonym, out of the running, means “not entered as a competitor,” as in Ian is out of the running for the job now that he’s living in another state. [Mid-1800s]


Having a chance to win, as in Mary’s still in the running for the promotion. Again, out of the running means the opposite, as in He’s too old—he’s out of the running. [Mid-1800s] Both usages allude to the entry and chances of a horse in a race.

In addition to the idioms beginning with running

  • running on empty
  • running start

also see:

  • hit the ground running
  • in the running
  • meter is running
  • off and running

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