Green’s Dictionary of Slang

also-ran n.

also also-ranner
[horseracing use]

a useless person, a failure, an irrelevance; also attrib.

[US]Ade Artie (1963) 16: There ain’t nobody else one-two-seven. They ain’t even in the ‘also rans’.
[US]F. Hutchison Philosophy of Johnny the Gent 6: To look him over you’d imagine that any dame that’d stand fer him at all must certainly be in the also ran class.
[US]H. Green Actors’ Boarding House (1906) 36: He was tired of being an ‘also-ran’ in vaudeville.
[Aus]C.J. Dennis ‘The Kid’ in Songs of a Sentimental Bloke 102: Wiv ’er an’ nurse ’e is the leadin’ man, / An’ poor ole dad’s amongst the ‘also ran’.
[UK]Wodehouse Damsel in Distress (1961) 11: He’s the blue-eyed boy, and everybody else is an also-ran.
[US]Wood & Goddard Dict. Amer. Sl.
[US]G. Milburn ‘The Tropics’ Curse’ in Hobo’s Hornbook 199: ’Twas a case of riding a crooked race, / Or being an also ran.
[US]J.L. Kuethe ‘Johns Hopkins Jargon’ in AS VII:5 329: also ran — n. — a mediocre person; a second rater.
[UK] ‘The Dirge of the Dole’ in M. Marshall Tramp-Royal on the Toby 228: We are the also-ranners, / Us workless blokes on the Dole.
[UK]J. Maclaren-Ross Of Love And Hunger 37: ARE YOU AN ALSO RAN?
[NZ]G. Meek ‘The Ringer’ Station Days in Maoriland 104: And the hope we fondly cherished that he’d finish in the cart, / Faded like a moral cert that’s also ran.
[US]B. Hecht Gaily, Gaily 87: Sex was seldom a vital diversion to crooks. Danger and violence preoccupied their nerve centers, and sensuality was an also-ran.
[Aus]I. Moffitt U-Jack Society 153: In the Australian sporting world they’re nowhere, mate. They’re the also-rans.
[UK]T. Blacker Fixx 45: The achiever is obliged at times to keep the company of the also-rans.
[UK]Guardian Guide 29 May–4 June 37: The final covers a wide spread, from future stars to also-rans.
R. Garman Las Vegas for Dummies 100: In recent years, it [i.e. a hotel] was an also-ran in the downtown market, which, in turn, is an also-ran to the more popular Strip.