Upper hand

Upper hand is an idiom with an uncertain etymology. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal meaning. We will examine the meaning of the term upper hand, some possible sources of its origin, and a few examples of its use in sentences.

Upper hand means the position of dominance, being in charge, being in control or having the advantage. It is most often used as get the upper hand or gain the upper hand. Some believe the idiom upper hand comes from an American playground method of seeing who takes the first turn in a game. Someone tosses a baseball bat at a player, and then the other players vying for the first turn take turns grabbing the bat above the original gripping point. The hand that lands on top of the baseball bat handle belongs to the player who gets the first turn. However, the term upper hand is older than baseball. It is found several hundred years before, in England. Upper hand is derived from the word upper, meaning superior, first, highest, and hand, with the alternative meaning of possession or power. The plural form is upper hands.


“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)

As exit poll results started pouring in on Thursday, it seemed evident that Punjab Congress had an upper hand over Aam Aadmi Party in the state’s keenly-contested assembly polls. (The Indian Express)

Asked whether the recent developments in the Valley meant that the militants had gained the upper hand against the security forces, Narasimhan said: “Army Training Command and all the field formations, down to battalion level, analyse the operations and implement the lessons learned.” (The Economic Times)

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