the upper hand

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the upper hand

A position of advantage, power, and/or control (over someone, something, or some situation). Typically used after the verbs "have," "gain," or "get." The home team got the upper hand when their opponents' star quarterback went out with an injury. We've been doing everything we can for your father, but I'm afraid the cancer is gaining the upper hand. The two companies were neck and neck for years, but Mayers International seems to have the upper hand in the markets lately.
See also: hand, upper

*upper hand (on someone)

Fig. a position superior to someone; the advantage of someone. (*Typically: get ~; have ~; give someone ~.) John is always trying to get the upper hand on someone. He never ends up having the upper hand, though.
See also: hand, upper

upper hand

Also, whip hand. A dominating or controlling position, as in Once you let Jeff get the upper hand there'll be no stopping him, or When it comes to checkers, my son-in-law generally has the whip hand. The first term alludes to an ancient game in which each player in turn grasps a stick with one hand, beginning from the bottom, and the last who can put his hand at the top wins. Its figurative use dates from the late 1400s. The variant alludes to the driver who holds the whip in a horse-drawn vehicle; it was being used figuratively by the late 1600s.
See also: hand, upper

the upper hand

1. If someone has the upper hand, they have the most power and control in a situation. Most people who knew the couple agreed that Franzen had the upper hand in the relationship. Diplomats believe it is still far from clear which side is gaining the upper hand in the economic debate.
2. If a feeling or emotion gets the upper hand, you are not able to hide it or control it. Dan was breathing in short, sharp bursts as the tension and his exasperation gained the upper hand.
See also: hand, upper
References in classic literature ?
All the preceding classes that got the upper hand, sought to fortify their already acquired status by subjecting society at large to their conditions of appropriation.
The little man had been sitting there fishing, and unluckily the wind had tangled up his beard with the fishing-line; a moment later a big fish made a bite and the feeble creature had not strength to pull it out; the fish kept the upper hand and pulled the dwarf towards him.
In all their former intercourse it had been she who by virtue of her sex and his blind love for her had kept the upper hand.
I've got the upper hand over you, Fagin; and, d--me, I'll keep it.
What is more, even in the acutest paroxysm of this cowardly fever, I dreamed of getting the upper hand, of dominating them, carrying them away, making them like me--if only for my "elevation of thought and unmistakable wit.
Nevertheless, tranquillity was gradually restored, the scholar held his peace, the mendicant counted over some coins in his hat, and the piece resumed the upper hand.
Sources say Victoria has the upper hand because she's the one who resisted a reunion for so long.
The thing he's brought to the Premier League is a positivity that his team will gain the upper hand or attempt to take the upper hand.
It feels like we are spiralling out of control and no one is willing to put the brakes on Actor James Norton, on Brexit The European Union is having the upper hand which I regret.
15 (ANI): While many predicting that Ferrari would have the upper hand in the Singapore Grand Prix, four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel has insisted that he is expecting a close battle with Mercedes in the coming weekend.
TEHRAN (FNA)- The Eastern Province of Deir Ezzur has been the scene of bloody clashes between the rebel groups and the Syrian soldiers, who have gained the upper hand against the foreign-backed enemies in recent months.
The second half was a very different affair, both sides continuing to play attractive rugby, but Ruthin gained the upper hand when Morgan made another incisive run into the visitors' 22 and put flanker Clwyd Jones over for a try which Bennett converted.
With the rebels gaining the upper hand, the new government is still unable to bring peace to Libya.
The home side appeared to have the upper hand from the kick off and stand-off Lewis Robling opened the scoring with a fifth minute penalty.
Bond buying took the upper hand in the morning after optimism for an early resolution to the eurozone debt crisis faded, but was offset later by selling related to profit-taking, brokers said.