See more synonyms for ace on
  1. a playing card or die marked with or having the value indicated by a single spot: He dealt me four aces in the first hand.
  2. a single spot or mark on a playing card or die.
  3. (in tennis, badminton, handball, etc.)
    1. Also called service ace.a placement made on a service.
    2. any placement.
    3. a serve that the opponent fails to touch.
    4. the point thus scored.
  4. a fighter pilot credited with destroying a prescribed number or more of enemy aircraft, usually five, in combat.
  5. a very skilled person; expert; adept: an ace at tap dancing.
  6. Slang. a one-dollar bill.
  7. Slang. a close friend.
  8. Golf.
    1. Also called hole in one.a shot in which the ball is driven from the tee into the hole in one stroke: He hit a 225-yard ace on the first hole.
    2. a score of one stroke made on such a shot: to card an ace.
  9. Slang. a barbiturate or amphetamine capsule or pill.
  10. a very small quantity, amount, or degree; a particle: not worth an ace.
  11. Slang. a grade of A; the highest grade or score.
verb (used with object), aced, ac·ing.
  1. (in tennis, badminton, handball, etc.) to win a point against (one's opponent) by an ace.
  2. Golf. to make an ace on (a hole).
  3. Slang. to cheat, defraud, or take advantage of (often followed by out): to be aced out of one's inheritance; a friend who aced me out of a good job.
  4. Slang.
    1. to receive a grade of A, as on a test or in a course (sometimes followed by out).
    2. to complete easily and successfully: He aced every physical fitness test they gave him.
  1. excellent; first-rate; outstanding.
Verb Phrases
  1. ace it, Slang. to accomplish something with complete success: a champion who could ace it every time.
  1. ace up one's sleeve, an important, effective, or decisive argument, resource, or advantage kept in reserve until needed.
  2. be aces with, Slang. to be highly regarded by: The boss says you're aces with him.
  3. easy aces, Auction Bridge. aces equally divided between opponents.
  4. within an ace of, within a narrow margin of; close to: He came within an ace of winning.

Origin of ace

1250–1300; 1915 for def 4; Middle English as, aas < Old French as < Latin: a unit; cf. as2; sense 4 after French as in World War I; sense 5 < 4 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for ace up one's sleeve

reserve, trump

British Dictionary definitions for ace up one's sleeve


  1. any die, domino, or any of four playing cards with one spot
  2. a single spot or pip on a playing card, die, etc
  3. tennis a winning serve that the opponent fails to reach
  4. golf, mainly US a hole in one
  5. a fighter pilot accredited with destroying several enemy aircraft
  6. informal an expert or highly skilled personan ace at driving
  7. an ace up one's sleeve or an ace in the hole a hidden and powerful advantage
  8. hold all the aces to have all the advantages or power
  9. play one's ace to use one's best weapon or resource
  10. within an ace of almost to the point ofhe came within an ace of winning
  1. informal superb; excellent
verb (tr)
  1. tennis to serve an ace against
  2. golf, mainly US to play (a hole) in one stroke
  3. US and Canadian to perform extremely well or score very highly in (an examination, etc)

Word Origin for ace

C13: via Old French from Latin as a unit, perhaps from a Greek variant of heis one


n acronym for
  1. (in Britain) Advisory Centre for Education; a private organization offering advice on schools to parents
  2. Allied Command Europe
  3. angiotensin-converting enzymeSee ACE inhibitor
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for ace up one's sleeve



c.1300, "one at dice," from Old French as "one at dice," from Latin as "a unit, one, a whole, unity;" also the name of a small Roman coin ("originally one pound of copper; reduced by depreciation to half an ounce" [Lewis]), perhaps originally Etruscan and related to Greek eis "one" (from PIE *sem- "one, as one"), or directly from the Greek word.

In English, it meant the side of the die with only one mark before it meant the playing card with one pip (1530s). Because this was the lowest roll at dice, ace was used metaphorically in Middle English for "bad luck" or "something of no value;" but as the ace is often the highest playing card, the extended senses based on "excellence, good quality" arose 18c. as card-playing became popular. Ace in the hole in the figurative sense of "concealed advantage" is attested from 1904, from crooked stud poker deals.

Meaning "outstanding pilot" dates from 1917 (technically, in World War I aviators' jargon, one who has brought down 10 enemy planes, though originally in reference to 5 shot down), from French l'ace (1915), which, according to Bruce Robertson (ed.) "Air Aces of the 1914-1918 War" was used in prewar French sporting publications for "top of the deck" boxers, cyclists, etc. Sports meaning of "point scored" (1819) led to that of "unreturnable serve" (1889).



"to score" (in sports), 1923, from ace (n.). This led in turn to the extended student slang sense of "get high marks" (1959). Related: Aced; acing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with ace up one's sleeve


In addition to the idioms beginning with ace

  • ace in the hole
  • ace it
  • ace out

also see:

  • hold all the aces
  • within an ace of
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.