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warhorse, n.

Forms:  see war n.1   and horse n.(Show Less)
Frequency (in current use): 
Origin: Formed within English, by compounding. Etymons: war n.1, horse n.

 1. A powerful horse ridden in battle by a knight, cavalry officer, etc.; a charger. Now hist.

1586   Praise of Musicke iii. 46   The warhorse is so inflamed wt the sound of the trumpet, that he cannot keepe his standing, but maketh an open way to his rider, through the midst of his thickest enimies.
1645   L. Sarson Anal. I. Timoth. I. 15 4   The war-horse rusheth upon the pikes, upon destruction.
1688   R. Holme Acad. Armory ii. 150/2   Warr Horses, such as are trained and brought up not..to run back at the rattling of Drums, [etc.].
1709   R. Steele Tatler No. 61. ⁋6   A War-Horse belonging to one of the Colonels of the Artillery, to be Let or Sold.
1791   ‘T. Newte’ Prospects & Observ. Tour 275   A certain species of this wind music..rouzes the native Highlander in the same way that the sound of the trumpet does the war-horse.
1815   Scott Lord of Isles i. xv. 22   So fumes the war-horse in his might, That field-ward bears some valiant knight.
1851   D. Jerrold St. Giles & St. James (new ed.) xx, in Writings I. 208   The old war-horse pricks his ears at the murderous music of the trumpet.
1883   J. Parker Apostolic Life II. 174   The war-horse will paw when he can no longer stand.
1916   Daily Colonist (Victoria, Brit. Columbia) 2 July 15/5   The iron-shod war horse of former days has evolved into the padded wheel motor car, motor truck, and motor cycle of 1916.
1976   K. Reddick Horses 68   The Holstein was originally developed as a warhorse in the marshlands bordering the Elbe River.
2007   Backwoods Home May 23/3   Among Europeans of the Middle Ages the preferred warhorses were those that could readily carry fully-armored knights.

1586—2007(Hide quotations)

 2. colloquial (orig. U.S.). Chiefly with old (also ageing, venerable, etc.).

 a. A veteran of many military or political campaigns, or (later) sporting contests; an experienced and dependable soldier, politician, or player. Also: an experienced former soldier. Cf. old soldier n. 1.

1836   U.S. Tel. (Washington, D.C.) 20 Aug.   Burr reached the Vice-Presidency on the popularity of Mr. Jefferson. Van Buren on the strength of the Old War Horse of Orleans.
1867   A. D. Richardson Beyond Mississippi 151   That old war horse..threw off the black shaggy bearskin overcoat which he invariably wore.
1882   Bangor (Maine) Daily Whig & Courier 10 Jan.   The old Democratic war-horses of his Ohio constituency.
1886   Washington Post 10 Oct. 2/5   You have clenched the pennant in great style. Knew we could depend on the old warhorses in a pinch.
1902   Daily Chron. 26 Apr. 5/1   That old political war-horse..Sir George Dibbs.
1920   S. Lewis Main St. xxix. 344   They do kid me about not being in the army—especially the old warhorses, the old men that aren't going themselves.
1972   Sports Immortals 126/1   It was a familiar tale of boxing, the up-and-coming youngster being thrown in against the aging warhorse.
1996   Independent 5 Mar. 11/2   These two seasoned old warhorses, veterans of Franco's jails.
2006   N.Z. Herald (Nexis) 7 July   In their old warhorses Steve Price and Ruben Wiki, the Warriors can boast two of the best front rowers in the game.

1836—2006(Hide quotations)


 b. A person who is very experienced in a role, position, or activity; (originally) spec. an experienced stage actor. Cf. old soldier n. 1b, old stager at stager n. 1a.

1845   N.Y. Herald 25 June   On Wednesday evening the old 'war horse' of the drama, William Dinneford, takes his benefit at the Bowery Theatre.
1910   National Police Gaz. (U.S.) 16 July 3/1   She mixed with a lot of old war-horses and really thought she was an actress.
1933   S. Lewis Ann Vickers xi. 128   If she had been nervous behind the scenes, this old war-horse, this professional who had played her Lady Macbeth to much worse houses, did not seem nervous now.
1942   R. L. Haig-Brown Timber xiii. 173   Listen to the old warhorse talk, would you? You'll have to make up for me on the young and fresh angle, honey, and I'll show you ways.
1974   N.Y. Times 21 Jan. 43/2   Both correspondents are interested in the fate of an old and venerable warhorse named Walter Cronkite.
1998   N. McGaughey Corpse by Any Other Name ix. 87   He might even pay a little more attention to an old warhorse like me than to a young stallion like you.

1845—1998(Hide quotations)


 c. A tough or determined, usually older, woman.

1850   Thackeray Pendennis II. viii. 90   She was an old war-horse, and would have liked, at the trumpet's sound, to have entered the arena herself.
1898   Morning Oregonian (Portland, Oregon) 1 May 19/2   She knows it all... She's an old warhorse, is your mother.
1921   R. Fry Let. 13 Oct. (1972) II. 514   This excessively repulsive and brick-red old war horse.
1959   A. Christie Cat among Pigeons v. 67   A sharp old war-horse, called Miss Chadwick, keeps a wary eye on me.
2006   Loaded Dec. 77/3   The old war-horse finally quit the gaspers at 117 but only because she was as blind as a bat and couldn't light up.

1850—2006(Hide quotations)


 d. A play, song, piece of music, etc., which is frequently performed and has become very familiar, and (typically) enduringly popular. Also more generally: anything which is very familiar.

1860   N.Y. Times 4 July 1/3   He too has brushed up one of his old war horses, and ‘Pocahontas’ has at least the advantage of nationality over the ‘Relief of Lucknow.’
1898   Observer 2 Oct. 6/4   Last night he sang two of his old ‘war-horses,’ ‘Tom Bowling’ and ‘The MacGregor's Gathering,’ bringing tears to many eyes.
1935   Down Beat Aug. 8/2   Benny's band absolutely refuses to play Tiger Rag, St. Louis Blues, Nobody's Sweetheart, Chinaboy, and the other warhorses.
1952   Mind 61 495   These verbs..are important because they include such philosophical war-horses as know, believe and deduce.
1958   J. Flanner in New Yorker 27 Sept. 96/2   ‘Ben Hur’—the old theatrical war horse that has had Ben running..since..1899.
1997   Trav. & Leisure Feb. 74/2   His menu strikes a nice balance between traditional warhorses (shrimp cocktail, onion soup) and lighter city fare, such as portobello bruschetta.

1860—1997(Hide quotations)


 e. A reliable and much-used tool, device, piece of equipment, etc.

1906   Motor-Car Jrnl. 18 Aug. 531/2   I..do not think I should have another Wolseley, as my old ‘Warhorse’ is somewhat noisy.
1976   C. Bonington Everest Hard Way 225   That old war horse the ST [camera] behaved impeccably.
2004   D. Tremayne Donald Campbell (2005) i. 26   With a more powerful engine he believed that the old warhorse had one last great run in it.
2007   D. B. Sherlock in W. F. Bluhm Group Insurance (ed. 5) xliii. 902   The venerable warhorse known as the Dupont Formula is a convenient way of understanding the factors of a business that contribute to its growth.

1906—2007(Hide quotations)


This entry has been updated (OED Third Edition, June 2014).

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