to have an ace up one's sleeve


Senior Member
Argentina - Spanish
Hi all!
I know the meaning of this well-known idiom, but what I can't work out is why you use the adverb "up" (your sleeve) instead of saying "down" or "under" your sleeve.

Could you explain that to me?

Thanks a million!

  • cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    Hola Mara,

    Normally a sleeve extends downward from the shoulder to the wrist. Try sliding a card into your sleeve. Are you pushing or sliding it up or down?

    un saludo,


    Senior Member
    English (American)
    Don't know for sure, but it seems that if you, say, use your right hand to reach into the sleeve covering your left arm to retrieve something, you're more or less reaching "up." Best I can do! :)



    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    And to be sure when you are surreptitiously manoeuvring the card from your sleeve into the hand at the end, gravity helps a great deal if the hand is below the sleeve - hence the card being up your sleeve.


    New Member
    french & dutch
    To have an ace up one's sleeve: what does this sentence exactly meen, please. I guess I understand it, but I want to be sure.
    Thank you.


    Senior Member
    English Atlanta, GA USA
    It means that a person has something this will give an advantage that others know nothing about. As far as I know, it comes from poker when someone surreptitiously hides a high-value Ace card ("up their sleeve") so that they can use it in a later play to gain the upper hand. By extension, it can refer to a piece of evidence, some argument or any brilliant resource kept in reserve that you can unexpectedly use when the time is right.

    Hope this helps.
    Last edited:
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