The Language of Losing

by Kate Woodford
Recently on this blog we looked at the idioms and collocations that we use to describe winning. Sadly, for every winner, there is a loser so this week, we’re looking at a set of less happy phrases – those that we use to describe losing.

Starting with the verb ‘lose’ itself, note that one person or side loses to another person or side: They lost to Liverpool on Saturday.

Moving on to the much used word ‘defeat’, a person or team that loses may be said to suffer defeat: England suffered defeat in their World Cup opener. If they lose by many goals or points, the result may be described as a crushing defeat, a humiliating defeat or even a resounding defeat: Van Gaal’s side suffered a humiliating defeat in the second round of the League Cup on Tuesday./This was a crushing defeat for the reigning champion. When, on the other hand, a person or team loses by very few goals or points, the result is sometimes described as a narrow defeat: United experienced a narrow defeat to Lucena in their opening game in Marbella. The phrase be narrowly defeated is also often used: The reserve side were narrowly defeated on Saturday in a pre-season run out against City.

Concede’ is a useful verb in the context of losing. To concede a goal/point, is to allow the opposing player or side to score a goal or point against you: Amazingly, Newcastle conceded three goals within the first eighteen minutes. Outplay’ is another useful verb. If a player or side is outplayed, they are defeated because their opponent(s) performed more cleverly and successfully: Captain Ben Evans admitted that his side were outplayed by India.

Not surprisingly, a number of the more informal phrases used to describe very easy defeats sound quite violent: For example, a person or side may be said to take or get a thumping or take or get a hammering: Team USA took a thumping from Costa Rica./They got a hammering in their next match. Similarly, the phrases take a battering and take or get a drubbing are used to mean the same thing: They got a drubbing at Old Trafford earlier in the season, losing 7-1.

And finally, a couple of nouns to describe very easy defeats. A game or sports event that one person or side wins very easily may be described as a walkover, (also US walkaway): They may well win, but it certainly won’t be a walkover for them. A whitewash, meanwhile, is a game or sports event in which the losing person or side scores nothing: In the event, the match ended in a whitewash for City.

Well, I hope you won’t need to use any of the above phrases to describe your favourite sportsperson’s or team’s performance when they next play!

3 thoughts on “The Language of Losing

  1. Song Song Lý

    “Captain Ben Evans admitted that his side were outplayed by India.” are there any grammatical mistakes in this sentence? As “his side” doesn’t seem to agree with the verb “were”

  2. Pingback: Teksty tematyczne do nauki słownictwa. | Kramik z angielskim

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