Etymology
Advertisement
runner (n.)

c. 1300, "messenger on foot," agent noun from run (v.). The meaning "one who runs, a racer" is from early 14c.

With many technical senses. The meaning "smuggler, one who risks or evades dangers, impediments, or legal restrictions" is by 1721; the sense of "police officer" is from 1771. The botanical meaning "rooting stem of a plant" is from 1660s. The sense of "embroidered cloth for a table" is from 1888. In baseball, "a base-runner," by 1845.

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
rum-runner (n.)

"smuggler or transporter of illicit liquor," 1919, from rum (n.) + runner.

Related entries & more 
runner-up (n.)

1842, originally in dog racing, "dog that loses only the final race;" see runner + up. The more general sense of "team or competitor that takes second place" is from 1885.

Related entries & more 
road-runner (n.)

"long-tailed crested desert cuckoo, the chaparral-cock," 1847, American English, from road (n.) + runner. Earliest references give the Mexican Spanish name for it as correcamino and the English name might be a translation of that. The Warner Bros. cartoon character dates to 1948.

Related entries & more 
forerunner (n.)

c. 1300, from fore- + runner. Middle English literal rendition of Latin praecursor, used in reference to John the Baptist as the forerunner of Christ. Old English had foreboda and forerynel.

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
front-runner (n.)

also frontrunner, of political candidates, 1908, American English, a metaphor from horse racing (where it is used by 1901 of a horse that runs best while in the lead).

Related entries & more 
thrall (n.)

late Old English þræl "bondman, serf, slave," from a Scandinavian source akin to Old Norse þræll "slave, servant," figuratively "wretch, scoundrel," probably from Proto-Germanic *thrakhilaz, literally "runner," from root *threh- "to run" (source also of Old High German dregil "servant," properly "runner;" Old English þrægan, Gothic þragjan "to run"). Meaning "condition of servitude" is from early 14c.

Related entries & more 
curlew (n.)

"type of grallatorial bird with a long, slender, curved bill," mid-14c., curlu, from Old French courlieu (13c., Modern French courlis), said to be imitative of the bird's cry but apparently assimilated with corliu "runner, messenger," from corre "to run," (from Latin currere "to run, move quickly," from PIE root *kers- "to run"). The bird is a good runner. In Middle English the word sometimes also meant "quail," especially in Bible translations.

Related entries & more 
off-base (adv.)

"unawares," by 1936, American English, from off (adv.) + base (n.); a figurative extension from baseball sense of a runner being "not in the right position" (1882) and vulnerable to being picked off.

Related entries & more 
gofer (n.2)

"errand-runner," 1956, American English coinage from verbal phrase go for (coffee, spare parts, etc.), with a pun on gopher. Gopher also was late 19c. slang for a young thief, especially one who breaks in through small openings.

Related entries & more