trump card


trump card (idiom)
/trʌmp kɑrd/


  • a valuable resource that may be used, especially as a surprise, in order to gain an advantage.
  • a decisive or highly advantageous factor that gives one person or group a significant edge over others.
  • an action, strategy, or piece of information used to gain an advantage over others.
  • something kept in reserve for use at a strategic moment to achieve a desired outcome.
  • in card games, a playing card that has been elevated above its normal rank, which can win over any card of a different suit.

Example Sentences

  1. During the trial, the lawyer pulled out a surprise witness as his trump card, completely turning the case around.
  2. The startup’s partnership with a major tech company served as their trump card in attracting investors.
  3. When the election seemed uncertain, the candidate’s final speech acted as his trump card, winning over the undecided voters.
  4. In the final minutes of the game, the coach’s decision to bring in the veteran player proved to be their trump card.
  5. The novelist’s intricate plot twist was her trump card, leaving readers amazed and boosting book sales.

Origin and History

The idiom “trump card” is deeply rooted in the world of card games, and its origins can be traced back to the early history of playing cards, specifically to a fifteenth-century Italian card game called “trionfi” (later known as “Tarot”).

The Concept of Trumps in Trionfi

In the game of trionfi, there was a fifth suit of cards called “trumps,” which were more powerful than the other suits and could “triumph” over them. This concept of having a special, superior card that could decisively win a round or game was crucial to the strategy of the game. The term “trump” itself is derived from the word “triumph,” indicating victory and dominance.

Evolution into English Card Games

As card games evolved and spread throughout Europe, the idea of a trump card remained a significant feature in various games. By the early 1500s, an English card game called “Triumph” had adopted this concept, further cementing the term in the English language. Over time, the term “trump card” began to be used figuratively to describe any tool, resource, or advantage that can be used to gain a decisive edge in a competitive situation.

Figurative Usage and Popularity in the 19th Century

The idiom “trump card” gained popularity in the 19th century, and its usage expanded beyond card games to encompass any scenario where a hidden or reserved advantage could be strategically revealed at a crucial moment. For example, in business negotiations, a previously undisclosed piece of information might be considered a trump card if it sways the deal in one’s favor.

Other Theories and Beliefs

There are also some interesting theories and beliefs regarding the term’s use and its transition from literal to figurative language. Some suggest that the term may carry connotations of secrecy and strategic advantage, as trump cards are often held back until the most opportune moment. This notion of timing and strategic reserve has made the phrase versatile and applicable in many modern contexts, from political maneuvers to personal negotiations.


  1. ace in the hole
  2. silver bullet
  3. ace up one’s sleeve
  4. winning hand

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