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get the upper hand

To come to be in a position of advantage, power, and/or control (over someone, something, or some situation). We've been doing everything we can for your father, but I'm afraid the cancer is getting the upper hand. The home team got the upper hand when their opponents' star quarterback went out with an injury.
See also: get, hand, upper

gain the upper hand

To come to be in a position of advantage, power, and/or control (over someone, something, or some situation). We've been doing everything we can for your father, but I'm afraid the cancer is gaining the upper hand. The home team gained the upper hand when their opponents' star quarterback went out with an injury.
See also: gain, hand, upper

down on (one's) uppers

Having no money; broke. The phrase was originally used to describe people who were so poor that they had worn their shoes down to the uppers (the part of the shoe above the sole). I am down on my uppers this week, so can we go out for drinks next week, after I get paid?
See also: down, on, upper

be (down) on (one's) uppers

1. To have no money; to be broke. The phrase was originally used to describe people who were so poor that they had worn their shoes down to the uppers (the part of the shoe above the sole). This usage includes a pronoun between "on" and "uppers," and can include "down" between "be" and "on." Primarily heard in UK. I am down on my uppers this week, so can we go out for dinner next week, after I get paid?
2. slang To be on stimulant drugs. In this usage, the set phrase is "be on uppers." My son has been acting really weird and says he's been awake for days, so I'm worried that he's on uppers.
See also: on, upper

a stiff upper lip

The ability to remain stoic during difficult situations. Despite all of the hardships he faced, John always kept a stiff upper lip and didn't let anything bother him. The players were devastated after losing the championship, but their coach encouraged them to keep a stiff upper lip and focus on doing better next year.
See also: lip, stiff, upper

have the upper hand

To have a position of advantage, power, and/or control (over someone, something, or some situation). The home team had 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 has the upper hand now.
See also: hand, have, upper

the upper crust

The most affluent, powerful, or influential class in a society; the social elites or aristocrats. The awards ceremony was a chance for me to mingle with the upper crust. For years, tax laws have been specifically designed to favor the upper crust before the working or lower class.
See also: crust, upper

on (one's) uppers

Having no money; broke. The phrase was originally used to describe people who were so poor that they had worn their shoes down to the uppers (the part of the shoe above the sole). I'm down on my uppers this week, so can we go out for drinks next week, after I get paid? My mother was always slipping money into the hands of our friends she thought were on their uppers.
See also: on, upper

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

pepper-upper

1. A stimulant of some kind; that which quickly imparts energy and alertness. I find that yerba mate tea is a much better pepper-upper than coffee—it gives you the same boost, without making you feel jittery or on-edge.
2. Something that increases enthusiasm, optimism, or eagerness. I hate these public speakers they bring in—they're meant to be pepper-uppers, but they just come across as totally phony to me.

Keep a stiff upper lip.

Prov. Act as though you are not upset.; Do not let unpleasant things upset you. (English people are stereotypically supposed to be very good at keeping a stiff upper lip.) Even though he was only three years old, Jonathan kept a stiff upper lip the whole time he was in the hospital recovering from his surgery. Jill: Sometimes this job frustrates me so much I could just break down in tears. Jane: Keep a stiff upper lip. Things are bound to improve.
See also: keep, lip, stiff, upper

top story

 and upper story
Sl. the brain; one's mind and intellect. A little weak in the upper story, but other than that, a great guy. He has nothing for a top story.
See also: story, top

upper crust

Fig. the higher levels of society; the upper class. (From the top, as opposed to the bottom, crust of a pie.) Jane speaks like that because she pretends to be from the upper crust, but her father was a miner. James is from the upper crust, but he is penniless.
See also: crust, 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

keep a stiff upper lip

Show courage in the face of pain or adversity. For example, I know you're upset about losing the game, but keep a stiff upper lip. This expression presumably alludes to the trembling lips that precede bursting into tears. [Early 1800s]
See also: keep, lip, stiff, upper

on one's uppers

Poor, in reduced circumstances, as in as in The Smiths try to hide the fact that they're on their uppers. First recorded in 1886, this metaphoric term alludes to having worn out the soles of one's shoes so badly that only the top portions remain.
See also: on, upper

upper crust

The highest social class, as in She wanted badly to be one of the upper crust but it wasn't going to happen. This term alludes to the choicest part of a pie or loaf of bread. [First half of 1800s]
See also: crust, 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

upper story

The head or brain, as in He's not all there in the upper story. This expression transfers the literal sense of a higher floor in a multistory building to the top portion of the human body. Richard Bentley used it in A Dissertation on the Epistles of Phalaris (1699), where he compares a man with "brains ... in his head" to a man who has "furniture in his upper story."
See also: story, upper

the upper crust

The upper crust are the people who belong to the highest social class. The Cowes Regatta is a gathering of the wealthy and the upper crust who race their huge yachts and attend grand parties.
See also: crust, upper

the upper hand

COMMON
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

a stiff upper lip

COMMON If someone has a stiff upper lip, they hide their emotions and do not let other people see if they are upset. I had always believed in keeping a stiff upper lip, crying in private, and putting on my best face for family and friends. His pathetic attempt to maintain a stiff upper lip failed. Note: You can also refer to the attitude or behaviour of people who do not like to show their emotions as the stiff upper lip. Another problem is the British stiff upper lip which prevents many patients from asking for painkillers for fear of appearing weak. Note: Not showing emotions is thought to be a national characteristic of the English.
See also: lip, stiff, upper

on your uppers

or

down on your uppers

BRITISH, INFORMAL, OLD-FASHIONED
If a person or a company is on their uppers or down on their uppers, they have very little money. The company is on its uppers and shareholders can forget about receiving dividends for a couple of years. Simon pays cash for his ceramics because he finds so many potters are down on their uppers. Note: The upper of a shoe is the top part of it, which is attached to the sole and heel. If you are on your uppers, you have worn through the sole and heel.
See also: on, upper

a stiff upper lip

a quality of uncomplaining stoicism.
This is a characteristic particularly associated with the British but the phrase is apparently North American in origin, dating back to the mid 19th century. It is used, for example, in Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, published in 1852 .
1998 Spectator The Princess…as her final gift to the British people, had unstarched their stiff upper lips.
See also: lip, stiff, upper

have (or gain) the upper hand

have (or gain) advantage or control over someone or something.
See also: hand, have, upper

on your uppers

extremely short of money. informal
In this expression, worn-out shoes are taken as an indication of someone's poverty; the upper is the part of a shoe above the sole, which is all that is left after the sole has been worn away.
See also: on, upper

the upper crust

the aristocracy and upper classes. informal
In Anne Elizabeth Baker 's Glossary of Northamptonshire Words and Phrases ( 1854 ) ‘Mrs Upper Crust’ is explained as the nickname for ‘any female who assumes unauthorized superiority’. The term was also current in informal American speech in the mid 19th century. The French word gratin has a similar pair of literal and metaphorical senses, being literally ‘a crust of crumbs and cheese on top of a cooked dish’ and metaphorically ‘the highest class of society’.
See also: crust, upper

(keep) a stiff upper ˈlip

keep calm and hide your feelings when you are in pain or in a difficult situation: The English gentleman is famous for his stiff upper lip.
See also: lip, stiff, upper

get, have, gain, etc. the ˌupper ˈhand (over somebody)

get, etc. power or control over somebody, especially in a fight, competition, etc: Our team gained the upper hand in the second half of the match.The police claim they have the upper hand in their fight against the drug dealers.
See also: hand, upper

the ˌupper ˈcrust

(informal) people who are in the highest social classIn the past, the top or upper crust of a loaf of bread was the best part, which the more important members of the household ate.
See also: crust, upper

on your ˈuppers

(British English, informal) having very little money: Joe paid for lunch, which was great because we were both on our uppers, as usual. OPPOSITE: (be) rolling in it/money Uppers refers to the top part of a boot or shoe. If you are walking on your uppers, your shoes are old and worn down.
See also: on, upper

pepper-upper

n. an amphetamine tablet or capsule; a pep pill. I need me a little pepper-upper. Can I have a prescription?

top story

and upper story
n. the brain. I don’t think her top story is occupied. A little weak in the upper story, but other than that, a great guy.
See also: story, top

upper story

verb
See also: story, upper

keep a stiff upper lip

To be courageous or stoic in the face of adversity.
See also: keep, lip, stiff, upper

on (one's) uppers

Informal
Impoverished; destitute.
See also: on, upper

down on his uppers

Needy; fallen on hard times. Men's shoes have two parts: the bottoms (soles and heels) and the uppers, which cover the foot. Someone whose financial condition was so bad that he couldn't afford to have the soles and heels replaced after being worn away was literally down on (in the sense of “to”) his uppers. A similar phrase is “down at the heels,” and moving higher, “out at the elbows.”
See also: down, on, upper

upper crust

The top level of society. Although you might think that “crust” refers to bread and that the upper part was reserved for the aristocracy, word detectives would say you're wrong: no authoritative written connection between bread and the well-bred can be found. “Crust” refers to the earth's crust, or top layer. The upper crust of a society is its top layer.
See also: crust, upper
References in classic literature ?
It was this fact that assured me that I was not far from the upper pits which lie directly beneath the temple.
Daylight, too, was sceptical, and this despite his faith in the Upper Country.
Hunch number one: a big strike coming in Upper Country.
At half-past eight,' she said, 'at exactly half-past eight you may be watching the middle upper window of the top floor.
From the middle upper window blossomed in the dusk a waving, snowy, fluttering, wonderful, divine emblem of forgiveness and promised joy.
He turned and saw his hearer, a fast receding black shadow, flying in the direction of a house with three lighted upper windows.
Her escape cut off by the flames, his wife had appeared at an upper window, her child in her arms.
WHILE the Astorians were busily occupied in completing their factory and fort, a report was brought to them by an Indian from the upper part of the river, that a party of thirty white men had appeared on the banks of the Columbia, and were actually building houses at the second rapids.
It was now apprehended that they were advancing within the American limits, and were endeavoring to seize upon the upper part of the river and forestall the American Fur Company in the surrounding trade; in which case bloody feuds might be anticipated, such as had prevailed between the rival fur companies in former days.
The Indians of this great fishing mart are represented by the earliest explorers as sleeker and fatter, but less hardy and active, than the tribes of the mountains and prairies, who live by hunting, or of the upper parts of the river, where fish is scanty, and the inhabitants must eke out their subsistence by digging roots or chasing the deer.
There were easy communications with the interior by the upper waters of the Columbia and the lateral stream of the Oakinagan, while the downward current of the Columbia furnished a highway to Astoria.