Run rings around someone and run circles around someone

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The idioms to run rings around someone and to run circles around someone are interchangeable. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. We will examine the definition of the phrases run rings around someone and run circles around someone, where they came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

To run rings around someone means to outpace them, to outwit them or to best them in some way. To run rings around someone is rarely used literally, though like most idioms, the phrase has its roots in a literal sense. The term comes from mostly banned method of hunting called hare coursing. In hare coursing, hares are chased by greyhounds or other sighthounds. As the dogs chase the hare, the hare circles around in its attempt to escape. These are the rings referenced in the phrase run rings around someone. The term became an idiom with a figurative meaning in the late 1800s and is the preferred expression in British English. Related phrases are runs rings around someone, ran rings around someone, running rings around someone.

In the United States, the term is usually expressed as run circles around someone. This phrase also means to outpace someone, to outwit or best them in some manner, and seems to be unrelated to any hunting jargon. Related phrases are runs circles around someone, ran circles around someone, running circles around someone.


The EU has taken advantage of Theresa May’s ‘botched’ Election to run rings around Britain in Brexit talks – and has used her weakened position to ‘punish’ us with a massive ‘divorce’ bill. (The Daily Mail)

Xavi divulged that one particular training drill saw Messi run rings around some of the finest defenders in world football left him aghast, and certainly paved the way for his path to superstardom from that day onwards. (Sport Illustrated)

It has run circles around other assets like gold, bonds, oil, and even home prices. (Business Insider)