Wave the white flag

Wave the white flag is an idiom with ancient roots. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom wave the white flag, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

To wave the white flag means to surrender, to give up, to admit defeat. For instance, one who decides to stop pursuing a course of action may be said to wave the white flag, meaning give up. The symbol of the white flag was known to have been used during the Han dynasty in China, but was also mentioned as being used in a Roman battle in 109 A.D. The white flag may have been used to signal surrender or a cease-fire in battle because the color of white was easy to see in the confusion of war, especially if waved. The proper use of white flags to mean surrender or a cease-fire has been codified in the Geneva Conventions. Eventually, the term came to be used figuratively in circumstances other than battle. Related phrases are waves the white flag, waved the white flag, waving the white flag.


With a bunch of bumps and bruises sandwiched around a stinging shutout loss against a bitter rival, one probably thought Griffiths might wave the white flag. (Courier Post)

In the UK, it’s about 62 percent, and the virus is about to wave the white flag. (New York Post)

But Sanders has said he was not prepared to wave the white flag just yet, and when asked by anchor Anderson Cooper what he would do next to increase the minimum wage, he insisted that it is still “absolutely on my agenda.” (Newsweek)

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