“It’s A Horse A Piece”: Origin & Meaning (Important Facts)

Sayings and idioms like “it’s a horse apiece” are fantastic ways to learn new quirks and language rules. Idioms like “it’s a horse apiece” not only teach you a new thing to say in certain situations, but they also teach you a fair amount about history and etymology too.

What Is The Origin Of “It’s A Horse A Piece”?

“It’s a horse apiece” has recorded usage as early as 1893. Its origin is explored throughout the 19th century and onwards, and it’s used to mean that two things are more or less equal in every way. It’s mostly used in the US rather than in other English-speaking countries.

What Is The Origin Of "It's A Horse A Piece"?

St. Paul Daily Globe, 1893

The first recorded use of “it’s a horse apiece” seems to date back to 1893 in a newspaper published in Minnesota known as the St. Paul Daily Globe.

In the article referenced, a man says that the “president of France” can’t hurt him because “it’s a horse apiece,” and he’s the “king of China.” All of this was metaphorical in the article, but it was the first known word usage.

Rock Island Argus, 1899

The next time we see “it’s a horse apiece” show up is in an article about two sporting teams. The meaning of “it’s a horse apiece” here was used to show that the two teams (in baseball) were equal in every way, which would make for a good competition.

Rock Island Argus, 1904

The phrase seemed to pop up again in the Rock Island Argus before it came out anywhere else. It was again used to talk about two baseball teams, showing that the saying had a large connection to sporting events over anything else.

The teams in question were Rock Island and Davenport. Interestingly, they used the phase here because Rock Island won the previous encounter by the exact same number of points that Davenport won the encounter before that (making them even).

The Word Detective, 2000

While there were plenty more iterations of the saying used between 1904 and 2000, we wanted to share one final piece of information about it. In 2000, the Word Detective explained more about the phrase as we know it.

At first, it was written to clarify that the saying wasn’t “it’s a horse of peas” (which some people believed to be a new bastardization of the phrase).

They explained that “it’s a horse apiece” seems to date back to as far as 1840 with a similar saying known as “horse and horse” and was used to show that two things were exactly equal in value.

It roots from an old dice game called “horse.” In this game, if two players each lose a turn, it was said that they were at “a horse apiece.” This is most likely the direct origin of the phrase.

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What Does “It’s A Horse A Piece” Mean?

So, now that we’ve got the origins out of the way, it’s time to look at exactly what the phrase means.

“It’s a horse apiece” means that two things are more or less equal in every way. It means that they won’t be able to tell the difference between the two things.

You can use it in all sorts of scenarios. While the original iterations we explained above seemed to be more about sports, it’s used today to reference just about anything that can be equal.

If you’re unable to determine a difference between something, “it’s a horse apiece” might be the correct phrase to use.

A similar phrase that you might be more familiar with is “I have six of one and half a dozen of the other.” Both numbers “six” and “half a dozen” are equal. That’s the same sort of meaning we’re trying to get using “it’s a horse apiece.”

Example Usage

To help you understand it slightly better, we thought we’d include some examples. With these, you’ll be able to work out exactly how to use the phrase and make sure the situation presents itself for you.

“It’s a horse apiece” isn’t a well-known idiom, but it works well when you come across the correct circumstances to use it.

  1. These two teams are completely evenly matched. It’s a horse apiece.
  2. Every time I’m down, you’re down with me. It’s a horse apiece with us.
  3. All current gaming systems on the market are a horse apiece, in my opinion.
  4. The global elites are a horse apiece, and nothing comes close to their equal power.
  5. He’s a horse apiece with me, and I need to do something to stop him from winning!
  6. We’re both a horse apiece, and I don’t know what to do about it.

As you can see from these examples, we don’t always need to use “it’s” as the pronoun. Instead, we can use other pronouns to indicate that certain people are equal in some way.

As we said, it doesn’t always have to refer to competitions or events, though that seems like the most likely time you’ll come across the phrase. You can try out situations yourself to see when two things are considered equal.

Why Do People From Wisconsin Say “It’s A Horse A Piece”?

There are plenty of places in America that say “it’s a horse apiece.” The most common seems to be Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota.

There isn’t a direct correlation between people in Wisconsin saying “it’s a horse apiece” compared to any other place in the USA. The likelihood is that because the word originally appeared in Minnesota, the idiom stayed relevant in that geographical area.

Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota are all very close to each other on the northern border of the USA. For this reason, it’s likely that Wisconsin was influenced by the people of Minnesota with the saying.

It’s A Horse A Piece Erie, PA

Finally, there’s an online store located in Erie, Pennsylvania, called Erie Apparel that you might have come across before.

One of their famed t-shirts that they sell uses the slogan “it’s a horse apiece” on it, which might be indicative of the popularity of the phrase across the states.