From Middle English hond, hand, from Old English hand (“hand, side (in defining position), power, control, possession, charge, agency, person regarded as holder or receiver of something”), from Proto-West Germanic *handu (“hand”), from Proto-Germanic *handuz (“hand”) (compare Dutch, Norwegian Nynorsk, Swedish hand, German Hand, West Frisian hân), of uncertain origin. Perhaps compare Old Swedish hinna (“to gain”), Gothic 𐍆𐍂𐌰-𐌷𐌹𐌽𐌸𐌰𐌽 (fra-hinþan, “to take captive, capture”); and Latvian sīts (“hunting spear”), Ancient Greek κεντέω (kentéō, “prick”), Albanian çandër (“pitchfork, prop”).
hand (plural hands)
- The part of the forelimb below the forearm or wrist in a human, and the corresponding part in many other animals.
Her hands are really strong.
- Meronyms: index finger, middle finger, palm, pinky, ring finger, thumb
1913, Joseph C. Lincoln, chapter 7, in Mr. Pratt's Patients:
I made a speaking trumpet of my hands and commenced to whoop “Ahoy!” and “Hello!” at the top of my lungs. […] The Colonel woke up, and, after asking what in brimstone was the matter, opened his mouth and roared “Hi!” and “Hello!” like the bull of Bashan.
2012, John Branch, “Snow Fall : The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek”, in New York Time:
- Using her hands like windshield wipers, she tried to flick snow away from her mouth. When she clawed at her chest and neck, the crumbs maddeningly slid back onto her face. She grew claustrophobic.
- That which resembles, or to some extent performs the office of, a human hand.
- A limb of certain animals, such as the foot of a hawk, or any one of the four extremities of a monkey.
- An index or pointer on a dial; such as the hour and minute hands on the face of an analog clock, which are used to indicate the time of day.
- That which is, or may be, held in a hand at once.
- (card games) The set of cards held by a player.
- A round of a card game.
- (tobacco manufacturing) A bundle of tobacco leaves tied together.
- (collective) A bunch of bananas.
- That which has the appearance of, a human hand.
- A bunch of bananas, a typical retail amount, where individual fruits are fingers.
- In linear measurement:
- (chiefly in measuring the height of horses) Four inches, a hand's breadth.
- (obsolete) Three inches.
- A side; part, camp; direction, either right or left.
1649, [John] Milton, “Upon the Rebellion in Ireland”, in [Eikonoklastes] […], London: Printed by Matthew Simmons, […], OCLC 1044608640, page 125:
For that the Proteſtants were then on the winning hand, it muſt needs be plain; who notwithſtanding the miſs of thoſe Forces which, at thir landing heer, maiſter’d without difficulty great part of Wales and Cheſhire, yet made a ſhift to keep thir ownw in Ireland.
- 1950, Bertrand Russell, acceptance speech for Nobel Prize in Literature
- I maintain, however, on the one hand, that there are few occasions upon which large bodies of men, such as politics is concerned with, can rise above selfishness, while, on the other hand, there are a very great many circumstances in which populations will fall below selfishness, if selfishness is interpreted as enlightened self-interest.
- Power of performance; means of execution; ability; skill; dexterity.
1712 October 13, Joseph Addison, “THURSDAY, October 2, 1712 [Julian calendar]”, in The Spectator, number 499; republished in Alexander Chalmers, editor, The Spectator; a New Edition, […], volume V, New York, N.Y.: D[aniel] Appleton & Company, 1853, OCLC 191120697, page 451:
My friend Will Honeycomb has told me, for above this half year, that he had a great mind to try his hand at a Spectator, and that he would fain have one of his writing in my works.
1920, Mary Roberts Rinehart; Avery Hopwood, “The Shadow of the Bat”, in The Bat: A Novel from the Play (Dell Book; 241), New York, N.Y.: Dell Publishing Company, OCLC 20230794, page 6:
The Bat—they called him the Bat. […]. He'd never been in stir, the bulls had never mugged him, he didn't run with a mob, he played a lone hand, and fenced his stuff so that even the Fence couldn't swear he knew his face.
- An agent; a servant, or manual laborer, especially in compounds; a workman, trained or competent for special service or duty; a performer more or less skillful.
an old hand at speaking; large farms need many farm hands
1689 (indicated as 1690), [John Locke], An Essay Concerning Humane Understanding. […], London: […] Eliz[abeth] Holt, for Thomas Basset, […], OCLC 153628242, book III, page 259:
But a Dictionary of this ſort, containing, as it were, a Natural Hiſtory, requires too many hands, as well as too much time, coſt, pains, and ſagacity, ever to be hoped for; and till that be done, we muſt content our ſelves with ſuch Definitions of the Names of Subſtances, as explain the ſenſe Men uſe them in.
1905, Baroness Emmuska Orczy, chapter 2, in The Affair at the Novelty Theatre:
For this scene, a large number of supers are engaged, and in order to further swell the crowd, practically all the available stage hands have to ‘walk on’ dressed in various coloured dominoes, and all wearing masks.
- An instance of helping.
Bob gave Alice a hand to move the furniture.
1897 December (indicated as 1898), Winston Churchill, chapter IV, in The Celebrity: An Episode, New York, N.Y.: The Macmillan Company; London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd., OCLC 222716698, page 58:
The Celebrity, by arts unknown, induced Mrs. Judge Short and two other ladies to call at Mohair on a certain afternoon when Mr. Cooke was trying a trotter on the track. The three returned wondering and charmed with Mrs. Cooke; they were sure she had had no hand in the furnishing of that atrocious house.
- Handwriting; style of penmanship.
a good hand
c. 1598–1600, William Shakespeare, “As You Like It”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: […] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act IV, scene iii], page 202, column 2:
I ſay ſhe neuer did inuent this letter, / This is a mans inuention, and his hand.
1749, Henry Fielding, “Containing Instructions Very Necessary to Be Perused by Modern Critics”, in The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, volume IV, London: A[ndrew] Millar […], OCLC 928184292, book X, page 4:
[…] I have ſometimes known a Poet in Danger of being convicted as a Thief, upon much worſe Evidence than the Reſemblance of Hands hath been held to be in the Law.
1881–1882, Robert Louis Stevenson, “The Sea Chest”, in Treasure Island, London; Paris: Cassell & Company, published 14 November 1883, OCLC 702939134, part I (The Old Buccaneer), page 31:
[…] I found written on the other side, in a very good, clear hand, this short message […]
1886 January 5, Robert Louis Stevenson, “The Last Night”, in Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, London: Longmans, Green, and Co., OCLC 762755901, pages 74–75:
'This is a strange note,' said Mr. Utterson; and then sharply, 'How do you come to have it open?' 'The man at Maw's was main angry, sir, and he threw it back to me like so much dirt,' returned Poole. 'This is unquestionably the doctor's hand, do you know?' resumed the lawyer. 'I thought it looked like it,' said the servant rather sulkily; and then, with another voice, 'But what matters hand of write,' he said. 'I've seen him!'
2013 September 14, Jane Shilling, “The Golden Thread: the Story of Writing, by Ewan Clayton, review [print edition: Illuminating language]”, in The Daily Telegraph (Review), page R28:
[T]he pleasure of writing on wax with a stylus is exemplified by the fine, flowing hand of a Roman scribe who made out the birth certificate of Herennia Gemella, born March 128 AD.
- A person's autograph or signature.
Given under my Hand and Seal of the State this 1st Day of January, 2010.
- Personal possession; ownership.
- 1603, Richard Knolles, The Generall Historie of the Turkes
- Receiving in hand one year’s tribute.
- (usually in the plural, hands) Management, domain, control.
in safe hands; in good hands; He lost his job when the factory changed hands. With the business back in the founder's hands, there is new hope for the company. With John in charge of the project, it's in good hands.
1670, John Milton, The History of Britain, […] , London: Printed by J.M. for James Alleſtry, […] , OCLC 78038412, Book II, page 81:
But Albinus in thoſe troubleſome times enſuing under the ſhort reign of Pertinax and Didius Julianus, found means to keep in his hands the Government of Britain;
Give him a hand.
- 2013, Tom Shone, Oscar nominations pull a surprise by showing some taste – but will it last? (in The Guardian, 11 January 2013)
- Also a big hand for Silver Linings Playbook, an exuberant modern screwball comedy we had, in an unseemly fit of cynicism, deemed "too entertaining" for Academy voters.
- (historical) A Native American gambling game, involving guessing the whereabouts of bits of ivory or similar, which are passed rapidly from hand to hand.
- (firearms) The small part of a gunstock near the lock, which is grasped by the hand in taking aim.
- A whole rhizome of ginger.
- The feel of a fabric; the impression or quality of the fabric as judged qualitatively by the sense of touch.
This fabric has a smooth, soft hand.
- (archaic) Actual performance; deed; act; workmanship; agency; hence, manner of performance.
1702–1704, Edward [Hyde, 1st] Earl of Clarendon, “Book VIII”, in The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England, Begun in the Year 1641. […], volume II, part II, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Printed at the Theater, published 1707, OCLC 937919305, page 605:
They who thought they could never be ſecure in any Peace, except the King were firſt at their Mercy, and ſo obliged to accept the conditions they would give him, were willing to change the hand in carrying on the War: and many, who thought the Earl of Eſſex behaved himſelf too imperiouſly, were willing to have the Command in one who was more their equal.
- (archaic) Agency in transmission from one person to another.
to buy at first hand (from the producer, or when new); to buy at second hand (when no longer in the producer’s hand, or when not new); It's not a rumor. I heard it at first hand.
- (obsolete) Rate; price.
1625, Francis Bacon, “Of Dispatch. XXV.”, in The Essayes […], London: […] Iohn Haviland […], published 1632, OCLC 863527675, page 143:
For Time is the meaſure of Buſineſſe, as Money is of Wares: And Buſineſſe is bought at a deare Hand, where there is ſmall diſpatch.
Hand is used figuratively for a large variety of acts or things, in the doing, or making, or use of which the hand is in some way employed or concerned; also, as a symbol to denote various qualities or conditions, as,
- (a) Activity; operation; work; — in distinction from the head, which implies thought, and the heart, which implies affection.
- His hand will be against every man. — Genesis 16:12
- (b) Power; might; supremacy; — often in the Scriptures.
- With a mighty hand . . . will I rule over you. — Ezekiel 20:33.
- (c) Fraternal feeling; for example to give, or take, the hand; to give the right hand
- (d) Contract; — commonly of marriage; for example to ask the hand; to pledge the hand
- (part of the arm below the wrist): manus (formal), paw (of some animals)
- all hands
- at hand
- backhand, backhanded
- back of one's hand
- bite the hand that feeds one
- by hand
- change hands
- China Hand
- clean hands
- close at hand
- cold hands, warm heart
- Cross in Hand
- dead man's hand
- dishpan hands
- Dutch hand
- fill one's hand
- first hand, firsthand
- force someone's hand
- glad hand
- hand ball or handball
- hand basket
- handbreadth or handsbreadth
- hand drum
- hand gear
- hand grenade
- handicraft or handcraft
- hand in glove
- hand in hand
- hand in one's dinner pail
- hand in the cookie jar
- hand it to someone
- hand over fist
- hand over hand
- hand percussion
- hand-pick, handpick
- hand press
- hand sanitiser, hand sanitizer
- hands down
- handsignalman, hand signalman
- hands off
- hands on
- hands up
- hand to God
- hand to hand
- hand to mouth, hand-to-mouth
- hand wash, handwash
- hand waving
- hand wavy
- handwork or handiwork
- hand wringing
- hat in hand
- have a hand in
- have blood on one's hands
- have one's hand in the till
- have one's hand out
- have one's hands full
- hired hand
- hour hand
- idle hands are the devil's workshop
- in good hands
- in hand
- laying on of hands
- lend a hand
- live from hand to mouth
- minute hand
- off-hand or offhand
- old hand
- on hand
- on the one hand
- on the other hand
- out of hand
- out of someone's hands
- play into someone's hands
- play the hand one is dealt
- put one's hands together
- putty in someone's hands
- second hand, second-hand, secondhand
- shake hands
- show of hands
- steady hand on the tiller
- take in hand
- the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world
- tie someone's hands
- tip one's hand
- try one's hand at
- two-hand sword
- wash one's hands of
See hand/translations § Noun.
Appendix:English collective nouns
hand (third-person singular simple present hands, present participle handing, simple past and past participle handed)
- (transitive) To give, pass or transmit with the hand, literally or figuratively.
2013 August 10, “Can China clean up fast enough?”, in The Economist, volume 408, number 8848:
It has jailed environmental activists and is planning to limit the power of judicial oversight by handing a state-approved body a monopoly over bringing environmental lawsuits.
He handed them the letter. She handed responsibility over to her deputy.
- (transitive) To lead, guide, or assist with the hand; to conduct.
to hand a lady into a carriage
- (transitive, obsolete) To manage.
- (transitive, obsolete) To seize; to lay hands on.
- (Can we find and add a quotation of Shakespeare to this entry?)
- (transitive, rare) To pledge by the hand; to handfast.
- (transitive, nautical, said of a sail) To furl.
- (Can we find and add a quotation of Totten to this entry?)
- (intransitive, obsolete) To cooperate.
Terms derived from hand (verb)
to give, pass or transmit with the hand
- Greek: δίνω (el) (díno)
- Ancient: ὀρέγω (orégō)
- Indonesian: memberi (id)
- Interlingua: donar, passar
- Italian: dare (it), passare (it), consegnare (it)
- Norwegian: overrekke, gi (no)
- Portuguese: dar (pt), entregar (pt), passar (pt)
- Russian: передава́ть (ru) (peredavátʹ), вруча́ть (ru) (vručátʹ)
- Spanish: dar (es), pasar (es), entregar (es)
- Swedish: ge (sv), lämna över (sv), räcka över
- Vietnamese: (cho) đưa (vi)
to lead, guide, or assist with the hand
to seize; to lay hands on
nautical: of a sail, to furl — see furl
- The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.
Translations to be checked
- Obsolete spelling of han (“he”)
- Alternative form of hond