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2 definitions found
 for throw in the towel
From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48 :

  Sponge \Sponge\ (sp[u^]nj), n. [OF. esponge, F. ['e]ponge, L.
     spongia, Gr. spoggia`, spo`ggos. Cf. Fungus, Spunk.]
     [Formerly written also spunge.]
     1. (Zool.) Any one of numerous species of Spongiae, or
        Porifera. See Illust. and Note under Spongiae.
        [1913 Webster]
  
     2. The elastic fibrous skeleton of many species of horny
        Spongiae (Keratosa), used for many purposes, especially
        the varieties of the genus Spongia. The most valuable
        sponges are found in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea,
        and on the coasts of Florida and the West Indies.
        [1913 Webster]
  
     3. Fig.: One who lives upon others; a pertinacious and
        indolent dependent; a parasite; a sponger.
        [1913 Webster]
  
     4. Any spongelike substance. Specifically:
        (a) Dough before it is kneaded and formed into loaves, and
            after it is converted into a light, spongy mass by the
            agency of the yeast or leaven.
        (b) Iron from the puddling furnace, in a pasty condition.
        (c) Iron ore, in masses, reduced but not melted or worked.
            [1913 Webster]
  
     5. (Gun.) A mop for cleaning the bore of a cannon after a
        discharge. It consists of a cylinder of wood, covered with
        sheepskin with the wool on, or cloth with a heavy looped
        nap, and having a handle, or staff.
        [1913 Webster]
  
     6. (Far.) The extremity, or point, of a horseshoe, answering
        to the heel.
        [1913 Webster]
  
     Bath sponge, any one of several varieties of coarse
        commercial sponges, especially Spongia equina.
  
     Cup sponge, a toilet sponge growing in a cup-shaped form.
        
  
     Glass sponge. See Glass-sponge, in the Vocabulary.
  
     Glove sponge, a variety of commercial sponge ({Spongia
        officinalis, variety tubulifera), having very fine
        fibers, native of Florida, and the West Indies.
  
     Grass sponge, any one of several varieties of coarse
        commercial sponges having the surface irregularly tufted,
        as Spongia graminea, and Spongia equina, variety
        cerebriformis, of Florida and the West Indies.
  
     Horse sponge, a coarse commercial sponge, especially
        Spongia equina.
  
     Platinum sponge. (Chem.) See under Platinum.
  
     Pyrotechnical sponge, a substance made of mushrooms or
        fungi, which are boiled in water, dried, and beaten, then
        put in a strong lye prepared with saltpeter, and again
        dried in an oven. This makes the black match, or tinder,
        brought from Germany.
  
     Sheep's-wool sponge, a fine and durable commercial sponge
        ({Spongia equina, variety gossypina) found in Florida and
        the West Indies. The surface is covered with larger and
        smaller tufts, having the oscula between them.
  
     Sponge cake, a kind of sweet cake which is light and
        spongy.
  
     Sponge lead, or Spongy lead (Chem.), metallic lead
        brought to a spongy form by reduction of lead salts, or by
        compressing finely divided lead; -- used in secondary
        batteries and otherwise.
  
     Sponge tree (Bot.), a tropical leguminous tree ({Acacia
        Farnesiana), with deliciously fragrant flowers, which are
        used in perfumery.
  
     Toilet sponge, a very fine and superior variety of
        Mediterranean sponge ({Spongia officinalis, variety
        Mediterranea); -- called also Turkish sponge.
  
     To set a sponge (Cookery), to leaven a small mass of flour,
        to be used in leavening a larger quantity.
  
     To throw up the sponge, to give up a contest; to
        acknowledge defeat; -- from a custom of the prize ring,
        the person employed to sponge a pugilist between rounds
        throwing his sponge in the air in token of defeat; -- now,
        throw in the towel is more common, and has the same
        origin and meaning. [Cant or Slang] "He was too brave a
        man to throw up the sponge to fate." --Lowell.
  
     Vegetable sponge. (Bot.) See Loof.
  
     Velvet sponge, a fine, soft commercial sponge ({Spongia
        equina, variety meandriniformis) found in Florida and the
        West Indies.
  
     Vitreous sponge. See Glass-sponge.
  
     Yellow sponge, a common and valuable commercial sponge
        ({Spongia agaricina, variety corlosia) found in Florida
        and the West Indies.
        [1913 Webster]

From WordNet (r) 3.0 (2006) :

  throw in the towel
      v 1: give up in the face of defeat of lacking hope; admit
           defeat; "In the second round, the challenger gave up" [syn:
           drop out, give up, fall by the wayside, drop by the
           wayside, throw in, throw in the towel, quit, chuck
           up the sponge] [ant: enter, participate]

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