Throw In The Towel

Meaning:

To give up; surrender. To quit at something.

Example: Shannon was getting fed up with his job. His boss was mean and uncaring. His coworkers were rude and would gossip about him. Not to mention the job was strenuous and stressful. Shannon decided to throw in the towel and he hopes to find a better job soon.

In other words, Shannon quit his job.

Synonyms / Related Phrases:
1. Wave the white flag

Origin Of ‘Throw In The Towel’

The common phrase ‘throw in the towel’ is believed to come from boxing, where the coach, or perhaps a teammate, would literally throw a towel into the ring in order to signal that his fighter has been defeated; it was basically a way to surrender. This term has been around since the very start of the 1900s from what I could find. 

For example, this expression is written in the Kalgoorlie Western Argus, July 1900, appearing in a short article under the title “BOXING:”

“The final was particularly interesting, both King and Sullivan evidently intending to arrive at the actual result as quickly as possible. King’s left hand, however, met his opponent time after time, and nearing the end of the second round Sullivan was beaten out, his second throwing in the towel.”

A recording of the phrase with its figurative meaning comes just three years later, written in the Sunday Times newspaper, August 1903:

“Teetotal Smith, our great Mayor, goes about looking much depressed since the poll, and is, I suspect, half inclined to throw in the towel.”


Example Sentence(s)

  1. I started to do some cardio exercises as an attempt to get myself back into shape, but I had to throw in the towel early after spraining my ankle.

Note: The meanings forĀ common sayings and phrases, plus the origins for them – that’s what Know Your Phrase is about! But did you know that a phrase’s origins are sometimes completely unclear? Indeed, and so when that happens, what you might see included on the page is an explanations or two about how an idiom may have originated. If no explanation is given, there will usually be a citation. These are typically the oldest known quotes of the phrase being used in writing.