- to have the authority to make decisions over someone or something
- to have a dominant position or an unfair advantage
- The man has an upper hand to his wife. It is reflected in the way he speaks with her.
- She wanted an upper hand in the business and hence went ahead to buy all the shares that she could find in the market.
- The prime minister has an upper hand in the decision making and not the parliament, in such cases.
- The upper hand is given to those who take it.
The phrase is speculated to have originated in America where the baseball team would be decided based on who has his hand on the upper side of the bat when both captains start from the bottom and keep putting their hand above the other. The one with the upper hand would win and get to decide his team.
Another explanation about the origin is from the way a couple holds hands. The one who has an upper hand is considered to be the dominant partner. The literary origin of the phrase comes from Thomas Macaulay’s work titled “History of England” which was published in the year 1848 but there is a record of it being used in a ballad in the 1600s called “Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard”.