Upper Hand (or Have the Upper Hand) – Meaning & Origin

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Do you have the upper hand when it comes to writing? But what does that even mean? Having the upper hand is a common idiom we see in T.V., movies, books, etc., but what’s the true definition, and where did the phrase come from? Let’s take a look and see!

‘I Have the Upper Hand’ Meaning

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The idiom “have the upper hand” simply means you’ve got an advantage or more control in any given situation. You’ll often see it used to describe someone or a group of people, like a team, that’s in a stronger or more advantageous position compared to others.

In sports, if a team goes first, they have the upper hand in the game. In a corporate setting, if you have inside knowledge of your competitors, then you clearly have the upper hand.

Have the Upper Hand Origin

I couldn’t find anything concrete about a specific origin for the common phrase, but a lot of sources state that it started back during the dawn of American baseball when players would choose who went first.

Two players would grab a bat and slowly move their hands up the length of it to see who is at the top, hence the term ‘upper hand’ because the winner would have their hand the highest.

Is Upper Hand an Idiom?

Some people might argue and say it’s not, but it’s definitely an idiom. It’s a group of words used to describe endless ways and situations where you would have an advantage over someone.

Examples of Using ‘Have the Upper Hand’ in a Sentence

  • Our home team had the upper hand for the entire game, but the visiting team managed to come back and win in the final minutes.
  • We’ve got the upper hand in negotiations with the workers, and we’re considering everything while they try to reach a fair agreement.
  • When it comes to parenting, I always have the upper hand over my teenagers, even though they think they’re smarter than me.
  • Listen, you can’t win here. I have the upper hand.
  • I hold the upper hand in this situation, and there’s absolutely nothing you can do to change it.
  • I tried everything possible to win against my competitor, but she held the upper hand the entire time.
  • Jack’s team will win this soccer game because the team’s had the upper hand all season.
  • Creating a positive learning environment for children will give them the upper hand in life.
  • Knowing all the types of butterflies will give you the upper hand on your science test.
  • Doing a quick word challenge daily will give you the upper hand in learning English.
  • “Being a shareholder of a refinery will give Aramco the upper hand when competing with other OPEC countries such as Iran and Iraq, all targeting more oil sales into Asia.” (Reuters)

Synonyms of Have the Upper Hand

  • Having the high ground
  • Advantage
  • Hold the power
  • In control

Hold the Upper Hand in Your Writing

Idioms are a great tool in a writer’s arsenal, and you should use them properly. Having the upper hand is a common one you’ll see people use, and you can, too. Just remember that it means to have an advantage. I hope my guide helped explain everything!

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