• Hand


    • IPA: /hænd/
    • Rhymes: -ænd


    From Middle English, from Old English hand ("hand, side (in defining position), power, control, possession, charge, agency, person regarded as holder or receiver of something"), from Proto-Germanic *handuz ("hand") (compare Dutch, Swedish hand, German Hand, West Frisian hân), of uncertain origin. Perhaps compare Old Swedish hinna ("to gain"), Gothic frahinþan 'to take captive, capture'; and Latvian sīts ("hunting spear"), Ancient Greek κεντέω ("prick"), Albanian çandër ("pitchfork, prop").

    Full definition of hand



    (plural hands)
    1. The part of the fore limb below the forearm or wrist in a human, and the corresponding part in many other animals.
      Her hands are really strong.
      • 1913, Joseph C. Lincoln, Mr. Pratt's Patients Chapter 7, 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 CreekUsing 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.
    2. That which resembles, or to some extent performs the office of, a human hand; as,
      1. A limb of certain animals, as the foot of a hawk, or any one of the four extremities of a monkey.
      2. 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.
    3. In linear measurement:
      1. (chiefly in measuring the height of horses) Four inches, a hand's breadth.
        • Orwell Animal Farm|1Boxer was an enormous beast, nearly eighteen hands high, and as strong as any two ordinary horses put together.
      2. (obsolete) Three inches.
      3. A side; part, camp; direction, either right or left.
        • Exodus 38:15,On this hand and that hand, were hangings.
        • 1649, John Milton, Eikonoklastes, For that the Protestants were then on the winning hand, it must needs be plain; who, notwithstanding the miss of those forces, which at their landing here mastered without difficulty great part of Wales and Cheshire, yet made a shift to keep their own in Ireland.
        • From a speech delivered by Bertrand Russell on accepting the 1950 Nobel Prize in LiteratureI 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.
      4. Power of performance; means of execution; ability; skill; dexterity.
        • 1712, 2 October, w:Joseph Addison, 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.
      5. 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
        • 1690, John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, 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 ourselves with such Definitions of the Names of Substances, as explain the Sense Men use them in.
        • 1811, William Hazlitt, A Day by the Fire, I was always reckoned a lively hand at a simile.
        • 1905, w, w:The Case of Miss Elliott Chapter 2, 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.
      6. An instance of helping.
        Bob gave Alice a hand to move the furniture.
        • 1898, Winston Churchill, The Celebrity Chapter 4, The Celebrity, by arts unknown, induced Mrs. Judge Short and two other ladies to call at Mohair on an 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.
      7. Handwriting; style of penmanship.
        a good hand
      8. A person's signature.
        Given under my Hand and Seal of the State this 1st Day of January, 2010.
      9. Personal possession; ownership.
        • 1603, w, The History of the Turks, Receiving in hand one year’s tribute.
      10. (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.
        • 1611, King James Version of the Bible, 1:1Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us...
        • 1670, John Milton, The History of Britain, 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.
      11. That which is, or may be, held in a hand at once.
        1. (gaming, chiefly card games) The set of cards held by a player.
        2. (tobacco manufacturing) A bundle of tobacco leaves tied together.
        3. The collective noun for a bunch of bananas.
      12. Applause.
        Give him a hand.
      13. (firearms) The small part of a gunstock near the lock, which is grasped by the hand in taking aim.
      14. A whole rhizome of ginger.
      15. 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'.
      16. (archaic) Actual performance; deed; act; workmanship; agency; hence, manner of performance.
        • 1717, w, History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England: Begun in the Year 1641, 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.
        • Judges 6:36,Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by my hand.
      17. (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.
      18. (obsolete) Rate; price.
        • 1625, Francis Bacon, The Essays or Counsels Civil and Moral, For time is the measure of business, as money is of wares; and business is bought at a dear hand, where there is small dispatch.


    • (part of the arm below the wrist) manus obsolete, paw of some animals

    Usage notes

    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; as, to give, or take, the hand; to give the right hand

    (d) Contract; — commonly of marriage; as, to ask the hand; to pledge the hand.



    1. (transitive) To give, pass, or transmit with the hand, literally or figuratively.
      • 2013-08-10, Can China clean up fast enough?, 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.
    2. He handed them the letter.   She handed responsibility over to her deputy.
    3. (transitive) To lead, guide, or assist with the hand; to conduct.
      to hand a lady into a carriage
    4. (transitive, obsolete) To manage.
      • a. 1709, Matthew Prior, Poems on Several Occasions Chapter The Lady's Looking-Glass, I bless my chain; I hand my oar.
        Nor think on all I left on shore.
    5. (transitive, obsolete) To seize; to lay hands on.
    6. (transitive, rare) To pledge by the hand; to handfast.
    7. (transitive, nautical, said of a sail) To furl.
    8. (intransitive, obsolete) To cooperate.

    Derived terms

    terms derived from hand (verb)


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