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On this article, I came across the use of a word winningest.

It isn't a surprise that the experts still reckon that when in doubt, think about it and then decide to bat anyway, for that used to be the winningest strategy when most of them played the game.

Is this an acceptable word? If not, then is there a single word or phrase to replace it? (As opposed to reordering the words to strategy most likely to lead to a win.

I looked around on the internet and found out that it is an informal word, which means one with most wins. However, in the above context, it seems to mean one most likely to lead to a win. Is this article using the word wrongly (informal as it may be), or did I interpret in wrong?

Further, is it also acceptable to use winninger similarly?

  • In Ireland (near the land of Collins), winningest is never used as the folk there have never won anything in their lives... – user15645 Jan 16 '15 at 17:12
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It depends on context.

No, in most formal contexts you should not use this word.

No, you should not use this word even in informal contexts outside the US. It is an Americanism (although it appears to a lesser extent in other countries).

Yes, it's fine in certain informal contexts. It's particularly used in the discussion of sports, as in the page you link to. It's easily understood and surprisingly common in this context.

And I think you've got the meaning right. Even with well-established words, meaning tends to be fairly flexible. With a word like this that is only accepted in some informal contexts, meaning is more flexible still. It's not so much a matter of "right" and "wrong", but "Did they communicate successfully?" And since you understood, it seems that they did!

And no, don't say *winninger. It's understandable (at least in certain contexts), and you can say it if you really want to, but even people who say winningest don't say winninger.

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  • +1, especially for the interesting origin lesson (both here and in your comments with Matt above :)). I don't know that I quite endorse "winninger" as understandable, but can agree to disagree ;) I understood it in the question because it was proposed as an offshoot of winningest (which I'd never heard before, but got from the context of the OP's quote). Had I heard it "in the wild", I'd probably have said something like "What kind of bird are we talking about now?" ;) – WendiKidd Nov 23 '13 at 0:44
  • @WendiKidd I'd like to imagine that a winninger looks something like a plover :-) – snailplane Nov 23 '13 at 0:47
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It's a perfectly cromulent word :)

Seriously though, it's not a common usage English word, and I've never heard it said in British English. It's also very informal (and sounds uneducated to my ears) even in American English. Try to avoid its use in normal text or speech.

It is, however a real word, as defined thus:

adjective (informal)

having achieved the most success in competition.

And as you have seen, it is used in American English, although not very much.

enter image description here

Contrast, the British English graph:

enter image description here

So the simple answer to your question is yes. Winningest is a word. But my advice would be not to use it. A better way of phrasing would be

It isn't a surprise that the experts still reckon that when in doubt, think about it and then decide to bat anyway, for that used to be the strategy that was most likely to win when most of them played the game.

It isn't a surprise that the experts still reckon that when in doubt, think about it and then decide to bat anyway, for that used to be the strategy that won the most when most of them played the game.

or even just:

It isn't a surprise that the experts still reckon that when in doubt, think about it and then decide to bat anyway, for that used to be the best strategy when most of them played the game.

And whilst winningest is pretty bad - winninger doesn't appear to be a word at all. So don't use it.

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    Winningest is older than the internet. As sports jargon, it goes back to at least the 50s. – snailplane Nov 22 '13 at 8:01
  • Hmm. Apparently so. I'm just trying to find out where it originated and then I'll change my answer. It's not acceptable British English - at least not where I'm from :) – Matt Nov 22 '13 at 8:03
  • Ah. First use is 1972. It is a recent American bastardization :) – Matt Nov 22 '13 at 8:06
  • COHA has cites back in the 50s. (There are a couple stray occurrences before that, but they don't fit the pattern of sports jargon.) – snailplane Nov 22 '13 at 8:07
  • Being neither American, nor taking any interest in American sports, I can honestly say I have never heard it used seriously by any native speaker, at all, my entire life, in any context. It might be a word, but it's not a good one for a learner to use. Even so, I have updated my answer – Matt Nov 22 '13 at 8:15
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It is an Americanism, perhaps a slang! Most used by U.S. sport commentators, it simply sounds wrong and it is wrong to use although it is unfortunately now a searchable word by Google! It is also awkward to pronounce. Not used in British English.

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