• synonyms


[tou-uh l, toul]
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  1. an absorbent cloth or paper for wiping and drying something wet, as one for the hands, face, or body after washing or bathing.
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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.
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  1. throw in the towel, Informal. to concede defeat; give up; yield: He vowed he would never throw in the towel.
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Origin of towel

1250–1300; Middle English (noun) < Old French toaille cloth for washing or wiping < West Germanic *thwahliō (> Old High German dwahilla, akin to dwahal bath); cognate with Gothic thwahl, thwēal washing
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for throw in the towel

cancel, surrender, renege, acquiesce, quit, abdicate, retire, terminate, leave, abandon, defer, agree, acknowledge, perish, wilt, buckle, yield, bow, cease, capitulate

British Dictionary definitions for 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)
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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)
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Word Origin for towel

C13: from Old French toaille, of Germanic origin; related to Old High German dwahal bath, Old Saxon twahila towel, Gothic thwahan to wash
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 throw in the towel



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.

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1836, from towel (n.). Related: Towelled; towelling.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

throw in the towel in Culture

throw in the towel

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.”

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with throw in the towel


see crying towel; throw in the sponge (towel).

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.