Throw In The Towel


If someone throws in the towel, that means they give up or surrender. In other words, they quit.

Example: Shannon was getting fed up with his job. His boss was rude, his coworkers were unfriendly, and the job itself was strenuous and stressful. “Should I really keep working here?” he thought to himself. Eventually, Shannon decided to throw in the towel and he went looking for another job.

1. Give up
2. Wave the white flag

The Origin Of ‘Throw In The Towel’

The common phrase ‘throw in the towel’ is likely comes from boxing. Why? Because coaches, or perhaps a teammate, would literally throw a towel into the boxing ring in order to signal that his fighter is done. Basically, 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 Sentences

  • I started doing some light cardio exercises every morning to lose weight, but I had to throw in the towel after spraining my ankle.

Similar Example:

  • Benjamin challenged his grandpa to a game of chess, but after only a couple of minutes into the game, he waved the white flag.
  • I am gonna give up on this for now, but I will try again in a few weeks.

Tip: What is Know Your Phrase about? This site has the meaning of common sayings and phrases, plus you can learn about their origin too. Well, for some of them, anyway. You see, sometimes a saying’s origin is unclear. In other words, it’s not always known where or how a phrase originated. If that happens, there should still be a quote on the page. These quotes are generally the oldest I can find and they can give an idea on how old the saying is.