An also-ran is a dog or horse that loses a race or anyone who doesn't win or isn't successful.
It's an adjective, too: also-ran people and things are unsuccessful, or not victorious.
ALL so ran
Part of speech:
Both a noun ("he's an also-ran," "we went from also-ran to district champions")
and an adjective ("an also-ran team," "this also-ran company").
You can make the noun plural, "also-rans," but it sounds ugly.
How to use it:
"Also-ran" is a casual word with a slightly negative tone.
Let's look first at how to use the noun.
You might call someone an also-ran, or refer to some team, group, company, or country as an also-ran. Or, you might say that someone has the look, the luck, the attitude, or the performance of an also-ran.
Or talk about people being among the also-rans, being described as also-rans, being dismissed as also-rans, picking or betting on or investing in also-rans, etc. (I apologize if it grates on your ears when I pluralize this word to talk about "also-rans." It's correct to do that, but you can avoid it if you think it sounds bad.)
Let's check out the adjective, too. Talk about also-ran candidates, applicants, and competitors; also-ran teams, groups, companies, and countries; also-ran products, services, priorities, publications, etc.
examples: Only in the movies can you leap from also-ran to champion in the space of a montage.
It was a big-fish-little-pond lesson: with our high school's Future Business Leaders of America, I won a district-wide competition, but at the state level I didn't even place among the also-rans.