What Does ‘Root for the Underdog’ Mean?

If you’ve ever heard someone say they are “rooting for the underdog” or “supporting the underdog”, you may have been confused about what that means.

This idiom is often used in sports, yet it can extend beyond and into any circumstances where an individual or organization is in an unfavourable position. It involves standing behind those without as much authority, prestige, or possessions when compared to their opponents.

So, what exactly does rooting for the underdog mean?

In short, rooting for the underdog means cheering for someone who doesn’t necessarily have the same resources as their competitor(s). In sports, it means supporting and cheering for the individual or team with little chance of winning against a stronger opponent.

crowd rooting for the underdog in a sports game

Let’s take a closer look at what “rooting for the underdog” means and how you can use it in everyday life.

Root for the Underdog: Meaning

“Rooting for the underdog” is an idiom that means to support someone with less power or resources than their competitor. This phrase can be used in any situation, whether sports, business, or any other setting, to express optimism and hope that the underdog will prevail.

That “someone” could be a person or group at a disadvantage due to restricted financial, physical, or social resources or a business that lacks the same capital or backing as its competitors.

Bottom line? It can apply to any situation where someone faces an uphill battle, and you want to demonstrate your support.

It is often used metaphorically to represent hope and perseverance in difficult situations.

Is It Routing or Rooting For The Underdog?

Rooting for the underdog is the correct term. To root for someone or something means to show your support for that person or team. This could take the form of cheering, wishing them luck, or just simply advocating on their behalf. It implies a sense of optimism and hope that the underdog will ultimately prevail, despite any difficulties they may face.

Routing and rooting can easily be confused; they are homophones. However, routing has a distinct definition; routing means mapping out the course or direction something will take, usually referring to a journey. So when someone says they are “routing” for the underdog, they mean rooting for them instead.

Usage in Everyday Life

The phrase “Rooting for the underdog” has been used in popular culture for decades and is often used as a metaphor for hope and perseverance in difficult situations.

It isn’t limited to just sports; it can also be applied to many aspects of everyday life.

For example, you could root for the underdog in an election by supporting a candidate who isn’t seen as the frontrunner. You can also support a small business facing competition from larger, better-funded rivals.

By rooting for their success, you are expressing your belief that he/she can overcome his/her obstacles and succeed despite being at a disadvantage compared to the competition.


  1. “I’m supporting the underdog in this match; they deserve a chance to win!”
  2. “The crowd was rooting for the underdog to make a miraculous comeback!”
  3. “The small business didn’t have the same capital as its competitors, so I’ve decided to root for the underdog.”
  4. “Despite the odds, I’m still rooting for the underdog to win the championship!”

In Summary

“To root for the underdog” means showing emotional and sometimes financial support for someone who faces difficult odds due to a lack of resources or other factors.

While it originally began as a term used in reference to sports teams competing against each other, it can also be applied more broadly to any situation where someone needs extra support or encouragement because they face significant challenges compared with their competitors.

So next time you hear someone rooting for an underdog in any context—whether in sports or otherwise—you’ll know exactly what they mean!


What does it mean to root for the underdog?

To root for the underdog expresses confidence that those with fewer resources or less power than their competitor can still triumph. It’s an act of faith in someone who, on paper at least, might appear to lack the abilities and advantages necessary to win. However, supporting them demonstrates the belief in their strength and potential against any odds they may face.

When is the phrase ‘root for the underdog’ typically used?

Root for the underdog can be used in any setting when you’re hoping for an underdog’s success or a less likely contender.

For example, if two teams compete against each other and one team is seen as heavily favoured to win, someone might say they are “rooting for the underdog, ” meaning they hope the less favoured team will come out on top.

I have used sports as an example here, but the concept can be applied to any situation, such as business, politics, education, etc.

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Aman, at the helm of Weboword as its founder and Word Architect, believes deeply in the ability of words to connect, educate, and inspire. Each word is a key, and with Weboword, he aims to unlock the doors of imagination, understanding, and connection.

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