trump card

[truhmp kahrd for 1; truhmp kahrd for 2]
noun
1.
Cards. trump1 ( def 1a ).
2.
Informal. something that gives one person or group the advantage over another: The surprise witness was his trump card.

Origin:
1815–25

Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

trump card definition


In general, something capable of making a decisive difference when used at the right moment; in certain card games, trump is the suit designated as having precedence over the others: “The prosecutor was about to win the case, when the defense lawyer produced her trump card: an eyewitness who testified that the accused was nowhere near the scene of the crime.”

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

trump card

A key resource to gain an advantage at the opportune moment, as in That surprise witness was the defense's trump card, or She played her trump card, announcing that the Senator would speak. This expression transfers the trump card of games such as bridge, which can win over a card of another suit, to other kinds of advantage. [Early 1800s]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
They hold the trump card around here, not the railroads, not the shippers.
And is too often used as a kind of trump card when it's nothing of the sort.
But the company has a strong trump card to keep it from going under entirely:
  patents.
Natural amenities, though, are the trump card for rural areas.
Synonyms
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