the upper hand

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

  • Possibly an allusion to card games such as poker in which hands are the sets of cards held by players.

Noun[edit]

the upper hand (uncountable)

  1. (idiomatic) Advantage or control.
    • 1855, Washington Irving, "Guests from Gibbet Island":
      There was no refusing him, for he had got the complete upper hand of the community, and the peaceful burghers all stood in awe of him.
    • 1883, Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island, ch. 23:
      [C]uriosity began to get the upper hand, and I determined I should have one look through the cabin window.
    • 1911, Joseph Conrad, Under Western Eyes, ch. 1:
      There it was Razumov who had the upper hand, in a composed sense of his own superiority.
    • 2003, Christine Gorman, "Playing Chicken With Our Antibiotics," Time, 14 Feb.:
      And because they live everywhere and reproduce quickly, bacteria have the upper hand.

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