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Stalking horse

Stalking horse is an idiom that is most often used in British English. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal meaning. We will examine the definition of stalking horse, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

A stalking horse is a thing or person used to disguise someone’s real intentions. Most often, the stalking horse is a decoy used as a distraction, or it is a way to test the viability of a concept before putting one’s resources and reputation behind that concept. Like most idioms, the phrase started out with a literal meaning. The term stalking horse is derived from a hunting practice of the 1500s. In order to get close to fowl, hunters employed trained stalking horses. These horses could walk up on gamebirds without alarming them. The hunters hid behind these stalking horses until they were in a position to shoot at the birds. Stalking horse is not a well known term in North America, it is most often seen there as a business term.

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Examples

Theresa May will face a “stalking horse” challenge to topple her as Prime Minister if she waters down Brexit, senior Tories have warned. (The Telegraph)

Seacor Marine Holdings has confirmed it has launched a ‘stalking horse bid’ to form a joint venture with Montco Offshore. (The Offshore Support Journal)

The deadline was Monday for the company to identify a so-called stalking horse bidder, which would make an initial offer for the grocer’s assets that any other suitor would have to beat. (The Indianapolis Business Journal)

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