Baseball players, boxers, politicians: each is a contender in that they compete or campaign to win something.

Contender has a slightly different meaning than competitor, often implying a more vigorous, even scrappier, sense of taking on every unexpected challenge. The most famous use of contender is Marlon Brando's quote in the film On The Waterfront. Brando plays a once promising boxer whose career has been ruined by a fixed fight. "I coulda been a contender!" Brando cried, implying he could have been the boxer whom everyone wanted to defeat.

Definitions of contender
  1. noun
    the contestant you hope to defeat
    synonyms: challenger, competition, competitor, rival
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    champ, champion, title-holder
    someone who has won first place in a competition
    someone with a promising future
    a contestant who reaches the final stages of a competition
    enemy, foe, nemesis
    a personal enemy
    favorite, favourite, front-runner
    a competitor thought likely to win
    king, queen, world-beater
    a competitor who holds a preeminent position
    runner-up, second best
    the competitor who finishes second
    a competitor who has withdrawn from competition
    one of four competitors remaining in a tournament by elimination
    street fighter
    a contestant who is very aggressive and willing to use underhand methods
    any one of two or more competitors who tie one another
    someone who engages in a tilt or joust
    mortal enemy
    an enemy who wants to kill you
    record-breaker, record-holder
    someone who breaks a record
    type of:
    a person who participates in competitions
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