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1. A figurative towel used to wipe away someone's tears; used sarcastically to imply that the person's woes or complaints are uncalled for or exaggerated. Oh, you have to pay a bit more in taxes because you're now making $100,000 more per year? Shall I get out a crying towel for you?
2. A person who listens to and/or offers sympathy for someone's troubles, complaints, or grief. I'm getting a little tired of being Charlie's crying towel every time he breaks up with some new boyfriend.
throw in the toweland throw in the sponge; toss in the sponge
Fig. (From boxing, where this is done by a boxer's trainer to stop the fight.) to signal that one is going to quit; to quit. When John could stand no more of Mary's bad temper, he threw in the towel and left. Don't give up now! It's too soon to throw in the sponge.
towel someone or something down
to rub someone or something dry with a towel. The mother toweled her child down and dressed her in clean clothes. She toweled down the child gently. Towel down the dog. He's wet and shaking.
towel someone or something off
to dry someone or something with a towel. The young mother toweled the baby off with a soft, warm towel. She toweled off the baby.
throw in the towel
to admit defeat or failure The union was forced to throw in the towel and settle their bitter dispute with the company.
Etymology: based on the literal meaning of throwing a towel into the ring in boxing (signaling that a fighter can no longer continue by throwing a towel into the area where the fight takes place)
throw in the sponge/towel(informal)
to stop trying to do something because you know that you cannot succeed
Usage notes: If a boxer (= man who fights as a sport) throws a towel into the ring, he is showing that the other boxer has won.Three of the original five candidates have now thrown in the towel.
A figurative towel for wiping the tears of a self-pitying individual. For example, So you didn't make the first team? Get out the crying towel. This expression is always used sarcastically. [Slang; 1920s]
throw in the sponge
Also, throw in the towel. Give up, acknowledge defeat, as in I can't move this rock; I'm throwing in the sponge, or Bill decided to throw in the towel and resign from his job. This idiom comes from boxing, where formerly a fighter (or his second) conceded defeat by throwing the sponge or towel used to wipe his face into the ring. [c. 1900]
1. To dry oneself with a towel: The swimmer got out of the pool and toweled off.
2. To dry someone or something with a towel: I toweled off my wet feet before putting my socks on. We hosed the car down and toweled it off.
n. someone or something used to comfort someone. It’s so sad. I guess I really need a crying towel today.
throw in the toweland throw in the sponge and toss in the sponge
tv. to quit; to give up. (From boxing, where a towel or sponge thrown into the ring indicates that a boxer has given up.) The candidate who was exposed by the press as a former pickpocket tossed in the sponge in a tearful press conference. I’m done! I’m tossing in the sponge!
throw in the spongeverb
throw in the towel
To quit. A prizefighter's sidemen use sponges to clean his face of sweat and blood. To toss the sponge into the ring during a fight signaled that the boxer had had enough—and so the sponge was no longer needed. In recent years, towels have been substituted for sponges in boxing matches, and consequently, in the expression too.