My trump card. (Words and phrases meaning ‘advantage’)

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by Kate Woodford

This week we’re feeling positive so we’re looking at words and phrases that we use to describe having an advantage. (By ‘advantage’, we mean something that we have which gives us a greater chance of success.)

Starting with the word ‘advantage’ itself, we say that something good gives you an advantage over someone else: His height gives him a big advantage over other players. An adjective that you often hear before ‘advantage’ is unfair: When it comes to running, your legs are longer than mine so you have an unfair advantage!

Another common noun meaning advantage is benefit. We’ve all had the benefit of a good education. We often talk about someone reaping the benefit, meaning that something good happens to them because they have worked hard or behaved well: Study hard and you’ll reap the benefit in your exams.

A number of words and phrases relate specifically to competitions or competitive situations, such as work. For example, if you have a head start, you have an advantage that makes you likely to beat the people you are competing against: Lara had relevant work experience which gave her a head start over the other applicants. Likewise, if you have the edge over other people, you have something that makes you more likely to succeed than them: In terms of experience, she definitely had the edge over the other candidates. Similarly, if you have something good, such as time or youth on your side, time or youth will help you to succeed: Sylva has experience, but Whyte has youth on his side.

Perhaps not surprisingly, two ‘advantage’ idioms come from card games. If you hold all the cards, you are in a strong position when you are competing against someone else, because you have all the advantages: Remember, they need you more than you need them, so in that sense, you hold all the cards. Similarly, your trump card is an advantage that you alone have: Anna was about to play her trump card. Without her signature, none of the money could be released.

Two other phrases emphasize the fact that other people do not know about the advantage that you have. If you have a very special person or thing that will help you to defeat your opponents and no one is aware of them, you might describe them as a secret weapon: We had Tom in our team, with his knowledge of music he’s our secret weapon! Similarly, if you have an ace up your sleeve, you have secret knowledge or a secret skill that will give you an advantage when you decide to use it.

Here’s wishing you a successful week, whatever you are doing!

15 thoughts on “My trump card. (Words and phrases meaning ‘advantage’)

  1. Maryem Salama

    I don’t remember I have ever read on this site, such great and absolutely interesting post. I am going to copy and paste to read it frequently. thanks Kate

  2. Soheila

    Cambridge dictionary has unique part like” about words” which gives it head start over other online directories.
    I always look forward to seeing new posts.

  3. Alton Locke

    The word ‘Trump’ (and all its cognates in other languages) refers to ‘deception’. A trump card, it seems to me, is or was a card held surreptitiously and dishonestly, to pull out at the last moment and win a game.

    Strangely, this meaning of ‘trump’ doesn’t seem to be in the Cambridge dictionary.

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