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A race or competition in which the opponents are very evenly matched. Their race times have been so close lately that I bet they'll be in a dead heat the whole time.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
A contest in which the competitors are equally matched and neither can win; a tie. For example, The two companies are in a dead heat to get a new personal computer on the market. This term comes from 18th-century British horse racing and is still part of racing terminology. It later was transferred to other kinds of competition.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
dead heat, in a
Tied for first place. The term comes from horse-racing, in which “heat” used to mean simply a race (today its meaning is a bit more specific). It was in use by the late eighteenth century (“The whole race was run head and head, terminating in a dead heat,” Sporting Magazine, 1796). It later was applied to any contest in which there was a tie.
See also: dead
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer