ace up one’s sleeve


ace up one’s sleeve


  • a powerful, secretive weapon that people can use to their benefit.
  • a surprise advantage that other individuals are unaware of.
  • reserving an advantage and only using it when needed.
  • sure advantage
  • a crucial, decisive, or effective argument, advantage, or resource a person keeps in reserve until it’s required.

Example Sentences

  1. “I am wondering how Kellen is going to get her dad to take her on a trip, but I am pretty sure she has an ace up her sleeve.”
  2. The governor’s popularity among the more youthful voters gives her an ace up her sleeve for the ongoing elections.
  3. They think they have won the contract, but we still have a number of aces up our sleeves.
  4. When it comes to this race, my stamina is the ace up my sleeve. No other runner stands a chance.
  5. The lawyer waited for the appropriate time to play the ace up her sleeve as an eyewitness. She kept every detail of their unscrupulous business activities as an ace up her sleeves in the vent they tried to fire her.


The idiom “ace up one’s sleeve” was not derived all at once. It came into use randomly. In the 1500s, most individuals had no pockets in their clothes. They kept anything they would have put in the pocket in their sleeves. Later, magicians started hiding objects up their sleeves.

This idiom dates back to the 1800s and was mostly used by poker players. Deceitful card players slipped a winning card, often an ace, secretly up their sleeves, which they only pulled out when no one was looking to win a game. As the highest playing card in its suit in most card games, cheating players could hide it to use against unwary opponents.

See also: ace in the hole

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