throw in the towel

throw in the towel


  1. an absorbent cloth or paper for wiping and drying something wet, as one for the hands, face, or body after washing or bathing.

verb (used with object), tow·eled, tow·el·ing or (especially British) tow·elled, tow·el·ling.

  1. to wipe or dry with a towel.


  1. throw in the towel, Informal. to concede defeat; give up; yield: He vowed he would never throw in the towel.


  1. a square or rectangular piece of absorbent cloth or paper used for drying the body
  2. a similar piece of cloth used for drying plates, cutlery, etc
  3. throw in the towel See throw in (def. 4)

verb -els, -elling or -elled or US -els, -eling or -eled (tr)

  1. to dry or wipe with a towel
  2. (often foll by up) Australian slang to assault or beat (a person)

n.late 13c., from Old French toaille (12c.), from Frankish *thwahlja, from Proto-Germanic *thwakhlijon (cf. Old Saxon thwahila, Middle Dutch dwale “towel,” Dutch dwaal “altar cloth,” Old High German dwehila “towel,” German dialectal Zwehle “napkin”); related to German zwagen, Old English þwean “to wash.” Spanish toalla, Italian tovaglia are Germanic loan-words. v.1836, from towel (n.). Related: Towelled; towelling. To quit in defeat. The phrase comes from boxing, in which a fighter indicates surrender by throwing a towel into the ring: “After losing the election, he threw in the towel on his political career.” see crying towel; throw in the sponge (towel).

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