One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1A small pig or other animal, especially the smallest in a litter.
- ‘If it was the runt of the litter I imagine the hamster would be bigger than that - say three or four inches.’
- ‘All of our best dogs were already on the lowest rung of the pack hierarchy when we got them because they were the litter runts or just submissive by nature.’
- ‘He had been the runt, and the animal shelter was only barely able to save him.’
- ‘He's very small, owing to the fact that he was the runt of the litter; he doesn't seem to care too much about his size though.’
- ‘Do not choose the runt of the litter or that cute frail baby.’
- ‘Our springer-pointer Dolly popped them out six weeks ago, and you couldn't pick a runt among them.’
- ‘It was too small for the others to get through, but plenty large enough for this one, as it had been the runt of the litter.’
- ‘She's survived this far being the runt and all four lambs are always bouncing around the field, but falling asleep in the rain is not a good portent, especially after Blackie dying soon after falling asleep in the rain.’
- ‘A local veterinarian confirmed that Dalmatians often have a litter average of 12, though she said it was unusual for a whole litter to survive and that usually the mother would leave the runt of the litter to die.’
- ‘Like a lot of runts, I didn't think he'd live, but he's tough and has held his own.’
- ‘If you do pick up ‘free kittens’ offered from somewhere, which is a bit chancy, I've been advised never to pick the runt of the litter, as they are far more likely to have health problems than their more hardy littermates.’
- ‘With most animals, there are runts who are discarded, and nature just tries again in its merciless, relentless, remorseless way.’
- ‘She said: ‘She was a runt and my husband saved her and brought her home in September.’’
- ‘Most of the animals that are supposed to get put down are the runts.’
- ‘And not all immune animals are runts - the Virginia opossum is shielded from 37 species of pit vipers, including all major North American rattlers.’
- ‘She will not have any puppies, as her birth did not allow for her to; she was the runt of the litter.’
- ‘He was weak, the runt of his litter, and yipped whenever someone got too close to him.’
- ‘In a set of three, stronger siblings often force the runt of a litter to die of starvation within its first year.’
- 1.1derogatory An undersized or weak person.
milksop, namby-pamby, weak person, coward, pushover, mouseView synonyms
- ‘Even the runt of Wimbledon FC, plummeting headlong from former heights, still manages to be playing in League One next season.’
- ‘Growing up in the projects of East Boston, he was the runt of a litter of eight children, all born within a span of 12 years.’
- ‘As one of his friends once quipped, he may have been the runt of the litter of three brothers, yet with all his charm and humour, he was ‘the best argument against eugenics we have’.’
- ‘Only one brother remained - Henry's youngest son John, unkindly described by historians as the runt of the Angevin litter, whom Henry had only entrusted with the lordship of Ireland, still a frontier land in the Angevin territories.’
- ‘The runt of the Kennedy litter, he was too small to be a football player and far from a good student.’
2A pigeon of a large domestic breed.
- ‘Our members are a down to earth group of fanciers who not only love the breed of Giant Runts, but they truly enjoy each other as friends as well.’
3A small ox or cow, especially one of various Scottish Highland or Welsh breeds.
- ‘This study compared vertebral morphology and biomechanical properties of human and runt cow lumbar motion segments.’
Early 16th century (in the sense ‘old or decayed tree stump’): of unknown origin.
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