I always thought that "throw up" means to vomit. But I heard on a news channel

... The police officials cornered < robber's name >. He had no other option than to Throw up. ....

I initially thought that the robber vomited. But I saw on another channel that he has told the truth.

Question: Does "throw up" mean to reveal details?

I read this but it gives another interpretation of the word

  • 2
    Are you sure there wasn't more to that sentence? For instance, "He had no other option than to throw up his hands"? Dec 25, 2015 at 12:57
  • Nope @StoneyB It was only He had no other option than to throw up. I did watch this on an Indian news channel. Is it restricted only to Indian English (or is it some kind of urban english)? Dec 25, 2015 at 12:59
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    I have no idea whether the intransitive phrase is current in Indian English--you are better placed than I to know that! OED 1 suggests (but does not give a citation or a date) that an intransitive use in the sense "throw down your cards, concede defeat" was once current, and many IE phrases which now seem odd are old-fashioned leftovers from the occupation. Dec 25, 2015 at 13:21
  • 1
    @BhargavRao You guessed it right. Everything we eat comes out when we vomit. The thief gave all the info or spoke the truth.
    – Usernew
    Dec 25, 2015 at 13:29
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    All I can say is that in AmE it is not used intransitively in any of the senses suggested except literal vomiting. The phrase could have been current in casual speech among English gentlemen and officers in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and that could have been a source from which IE could have taken it ... but I have no evidence for any of these possibilities. Dec 25, 2015 at 13:48

4 Answers 4


Underworld slang for "to confess, to tell". (slightly obsolete per E.P. some 40-50 years ago) A Dictionary of the Underworld: British and American By Eric Partridge


To "throw up" usually means to vomit. That is the most straightforward meaning that most people will assume.

To "throw something up", like "throw up his hands", is different. Likewise, if there is a reason to think that a person actually throws an object, then we might think that the sentence is talking about the direction that an object travels through the air. However, if the phrase "throw up" is used without any context that provides further description, then vomiting is generally what is meant. That is what I would likely think of (and so is probably what many other native speakers would think of).

Despite Usernew's answer showing that "to reveal" is another definition, which may be a way to use the phrase which is technically accurate, I'm saying (as an American English speaker) that isn't the most common usage. "To reveal" is not what people tend to initially think.

  • Exactly what TOOGAM says for BrEng too.
    – peterG
    Dec 25, 2015 at 20:50

Yes, it means to produce problems, results, ideas, etc.

So basically the robber had to give details or relevant information to officers. For instance, the talks with the robber threw up interesting possibilities.

Other meanings of throw up include:

  1. Leave suddenly a job, position, charge to do something else.
    I threw up my waiter job to look for something better.
  2. Create dust to make visibility harder.
    The car threw up so much dust and we couldn't keep driving.
  • Nice (+1)... But are there any additional meanings for "throw up" also? Dec 25, 2015 at 12:18
  • @BhargavRao I've added more examples.
    – Schwale
    Dec 25, 2015 at 12:38
  • Note however that all of these uses are transitive, not intransitive; your #2 is not idiomatic English. I find only a single instance of car threw up on Google, and that's in a self-published text riddled with typos and misuses. Dec 25, 2015 at 12:56
  • @StoneyB My second example was missing some wording. It's been fixed now.
    – Schwale
    Dec 25, 2015 at 13:14

Throw Up1 means "to vomit" or "regurgitate" which further means to eject the contents of the stomach from the mouth.

.....He had no other option than to throw up

There's the first clue in your question.

And here's the second clue:

I initially thought that the robber vomited. But I saw on another channel that he has told the truth.

"Throw up" is used as a figure of speech. This means that he spoke the truth (that he was a thief or he stole or something else). He spilled the beans.

Speaking of your question: "Does "throw up" mean to reveal details?" Answer3:

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† Since further information/context in unavailable.

1. Oxford Dictionaries
2. The FreeDictionary

  • @BhargavRao No Problemo :) BTW, you should not put comma after "thanks."
    – Usernew
    Dec 25, 2015 at 16:52
  • 1
    Oh, I did not know that! Thanks. I started preparing for GRE a couple of days back only. Still learning .... :) Dec 25, 2015 at 16:54
  • @BhargavRao In case you don't confuse yourself. Have a look here
    – Usernew
    Dec 25, 2015 at 17:01

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