The English expression: ‘to throw in the towel’ = in German: ‘das Handtuch werfen’. Its literal meaning is the same in this case. This idiom is used when someone gives up, surrenders or admits defeat.
He was so tired that he couldn’t concentrate any longer, and therefore he threw in the towel. = Er war so müde, dass er sich nicht mehr konzentrieren konnte, und deshalb warf er das Handtuch.
We are throwing in the towel because many of our soccer players are already injured. = Wir werfen das Handtuch, weil viele unserer Fußballspieler schon verletzt sind.
Some store owners must already throw in the towel due to rising rents. = Einige Ladeninhaber müssen wegen steigender Mieten schon das Handtuch werfen.
Where this idiom came from:
The English expression ‘to throw in the towel’ derives from boxing. When a boxer is getting beat up by the opponent (is in danger of being injured) and victory is out of question, the trainer of his corner has the option to literally throw the towel. This means that they concede defeat but avoid further injury and/or knockout.
In January 1913, The F ort Wayne Journal-Gazettewas the first American paper to use this expression: “Murphy went after him, landing right and left undefended face. The crowd importuned referee Griffin to stop the fight and a towel was thrown from Burns’ corner as a token of defeat.”
It didn’t take long for the expression to take off. Already in 1916, the Australian author Clarence James Dennis used this expression in a novel, called “The Moods of Ginger Mick”.
Latest during the II World War this expression made it to Germany.