The word underdog is defined by Merriam-Webster as "a loser or predicted loser in a struggle or contest."

What does the word mean in the following passage? A loser or a predicted loser?

Power X was the most popular baseball team in Thailand in the 1940s. It was such a good team that it represented Thailand in the International High School Baseball Championship held in Japan. Despite being the underdogs, they performed beyond expectations. They defeated their opponents in the first five games. This was considered a miraculous achievement. However, the Japanese team soundly beat Power X by a score of 10-0, leaving the Thailand-based team in the second place.

I'd appreciate your help.


It means being the predicted loser of the tournament games leading up to the championship (that is, the first five games, which they apparently won).

It sounds to me like they were underdogs in all their games. However, because the second part of the sentence says:

they performed beyond expectations

we can tell that the sentence as a whole is referring to the games they won.

Had they lost a close game in the final (say, losing 3-to-2), then perhaps the word underdog would have extended through the final game. However, losing 10-0 can hardly be considered "performing beyond expectations," so, in this case, the sentence is referring to their run up to the championship game.

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  • Isn't it possible to interpret "underdogs" as "loser" here? The team ultimately lost the match anyway. Is it not justified to give a news report-like sentence telling the result first, and then give details about the game? That is, the sentence in the OP can be paraphrased as "Although they eventually lost the game, they performed beyond expectations," can't it? – Apollyon Dec 2 '17 at 11:15
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    No, I don't read it that way. When you are "soundly beat" by a score of 10-0, then you haven't performed beyond expectations. Sure, they performed beyond in expectations in the tournament (having made it all the way to the finals, despite being underdogs), but their Cinderella run came to an end in the final game. You asked what the word meant in this passage. "Despite being the underdogs, they performed beyond expectations" – that refers to their play in the tournament, up to (but not including) the game that they ultimately lost. – J.R. Dec 2 '17 at 11:36
  • Are you saying that they were underdogs in the tournament, up to (but not including) the final, and they were NOT underdogs anymore in the final? – Apollyon Dec 2 '17 at 15:52
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    I think I'm reading this the same as J.R. The team from Thailand probably wasn't expected to win any games, or maybe only 1 or 2. The accomplishment of winning not just 5 games, but their first 5 games, AND 5 games in a row, keeps them from being simply losers. Lots of teams lost games, and only Japan was the champion. Just losing a game or a tournament doesn't make you an underdog. Being an underdog is about the expectation before the game/tournament begins. – miltonaut Nov 28 '18 at 3:39

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