throw in the towel


throw in the towel


  • to give up a struggle
  • to surrender
  • to quit or concede defeat.
  • accept defeat
  • to fail
  • to concede (a match, a duel, a bout, etc.)
  • (of boxers or their seconds) throw a towel (or sponge) into the ring as a token of defeat.

Origin and History

The term “throw in the towel” arises from boxing. During a match, instructors would throw a towel into the ring to indicate that a boxer has surrendered. This gesture was first used in the late 19th century. Besides, it became a well-known gesture to opponents that the other fighter could not proceed with the match and that it should end. The idiom became widely used in different contexts to indicate surrender or resignation, not only in boxing.

This phrase, along with its variations such as “toss in the towel,” “fling in the towel,” and “chuck in the towel,” all convey the exact meaning of conceding defeat and admitting failure. The phrase can be used in literal and figurative contexts, such as sports, politics, business, or personal relationships. The term means giving up and acknowledging loss when one realizes they cannot succeed. It’s frequently used to express resignation in various scenarios, not just athletics.

The precise person who came up with the idiom cannot be traced since it has yet to be known or recorded anywhere. It is believed that the expression first appeared in boxing scenes in the late 19th century, where a towel was flung into the ring to declare the conclusion of a boxing match. “Throw in the towel” is an idiom with practical use roots; it is not linked to any literature or recorded origin. Although it was first used more widely in the middle of the 20th century, it was probably used informally in the boxing community before becoming more well-known. The expression “throw up the sponge” was first recorded in literature in 1871, and by the early 1900s, it had changed to “throw in the towel.”

Example Sentences

  1. After hours of struggling with the complex math problem, Jane decided to throw in the towel.
  2. Despite facing numerous setbacks, the entrepreneur refused to throw in the towel and continued working tirelessly.
  3. Frustrated by repeated failures in the experiment, the scientist was tempted to throw in the towel.
  4. His trainer told Rocky that he would throw in the towel if he did not start throwing punches.
  5. My brother was so fed up with his manager that he threw in the towel and quit his job.
  6. Unable to make him see my point of view, I threw in the towel and let him do it his way.
  7. She was playing chess with her friend and was in a good position, but finally had to throw in the sponge as she had to leave.
  8. Having labored all night to crack the code, he finally threw in the sponge and went to sleep.
  9. The argument was getting heated up, but not wanting to start a slanging match, she threw in the towel.
  10. Unable to decide upon a venue, the team threw in the towel and cancelled the event.
  11. Our team fought till the very end, but the opposition was just too good; they had to throw in the sponge.

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