hand / hand/ • n. 1. the end part of a person's arm beyond the wrist, including the palm, fingers, and thumb: she placed the money on the palm of her hand he was leading her by the hand. ∎ a similar prehensile organ forming the end part of a limb of various mammals, such as that on all four limbs of a monkey. ∎ [as adj.] operated by or held in the hand: hand luggage. ∎ [as adj. or in comb.] done or made manually rather than by machine: hand signals a hand-stitched quilt. ∎ [in sing.] inf. a round of applause: his fans gave him a big hand. ∎ dated a pledge of marriage by a woman: he wrote to request the hand of her daughter in marriage. 2. something resembling a hand in form or position, in particular: ∎ a pointer on a clock or watch indicating the passing of units of time: the second hand. ∎ a bunch of bananas. 3. (hands) used in reference to the power to direct something: the day-to-day running of the house was in her hands taking the law into their own hands. ∎ (usu. a hand) an active role in influencing something: he had a big hand in organizing the event. ∎ (usu. a hand) help in doing something: do you need a hand? ∎ (usu. hands) (in sports) skill and dexterity: he's a receiver with very good hands. ∎ a person's workmanship, esp. in artistic work: this should be a clue in attributing other work to his hand. ∎ a person's handwriting: he inscribed the statement in a bold hand. ∎ a person who does something to a specified standard: I'm a great hand at inventing. 4. a person who engages in manual labor, esp. in a factory, on a farm, or on board a ship: a factory hand the ship was lost with all hands. 5. the set of cards dealt to a player in a card game. ∎ a round or short spell of play in a card game: his idea of a good time would be a hand of bridge. ∎ Bridge the cards held by declarer as opposed to those in the dummy. 6. a unit of measurement of a horse's height, equal to 4 inches (10.16 cm).7. the feel of goods, esp. textiles, when handled: fabrics with a softer hand.• v. 1. pick (something) up and give to (someone): he handed each man a glass I handed the trowel back to him. ∎ inf. make (abusive, untrue, or otherwise objectionable) remarks to (someone): all the yarns she'd been handing me. ∎ inf. make (something) easily obtainable for (someone): it was a win handed to him on a plate. 2. [tr.] hold the hand of (someone) in order to help them move in the specified direction: he handed him into a carriage. 3. [tr.] Sailing take in or furl (a sail): hand in the main!PHRASES: at hand nearby: keep the manual close at hand. ∎ readily accessible when needed. ∎ close in time; about to happen: a breakthrough in combating the disease may be at hand.at (or by) the hands (or hand) of through the agency of: tests he would undergo at the hands of a senior neurologist.bind (or tie) someone hand and foot tie someone's hands and feet together.by hand by a person and not a machine: the crop has to be harvested by hand.give (or lend) a hand assist in an action or enterprise.hand in glove in close collusion or association: they were working hand in glove with our enemies.hand in hand (of two people) with hands joined, esp. as a mark of affection. ∎ fig. closely associated: she had the confidence that usually goes hand in hand with experience. (from) hand to mouth satisfying only one's immediate needs because of lack of money for future plans and investments: they were flat broke and living hand to mouth | [as adj.] a hand-to-mouth existence. hands down easily and decisively; without question: winning the debate hands down.hands off used as a warning not to touch or interfere with something: hands off that cake! ∎ [as adj.] (hands-off) not involving or requiring direct control or intervention: a hands-off management style.hands-on involving or offering active participation rather than theory: hands-on practice to gain experience. ∎ Comput. involving or requiring personal operation at a keyboard.hands up! used as an instruction to raise one's hands in surrender or to signify assent or participation: Hands up! Who saw the program?have one's hands full have as much work as one can do.have one's hands tied inf. be unable to act freely.have to hand it to someone inf. used to acknowledge the merit or achievement of someone: I've got to hand it to you—you've got the magic touch.in hand1. receiving or requiring immediate attention: he threw himself into the work in hand. ∎ in progress: negotiations are now well in hand. 2. ready for use if required; in reserve: he had $1,000 of borrowed cash in hand. 3. under one's control: the police had the situation well in hand. ∎ (of land) farmed directly by its owner and not let to tenants.in safe hands protected by someone trustworthy from harm or damage: the future of the cathedral is in safe hands.keep one's hand in become (or remain) practiced in something.make (or lose or spend) money hand over fist inf. make (or lose or spend) money very rapidly.off someone's hands not having to be dealt with or looked after by the person specified: they just want the problem off their hands.on every hand all around: new technologies were springing up on every hand.on hand present, esp. for a specified purpose: her trainer was on hand to give advice. ∎ readily available. ∎ needing to be dealt with: they had many urgent and pressing matters on hand.on someone's hands used to indicate that someone is responsible for dealing with someone or something: he has a difficult job on his hands. ∎ used to indicate that someone is to blame for something: he has my son's blood on his hands. ∎ at someone's disposal: since I retired I've had more time on my hands.on the one (or the other) hand used to present factors that are opposed or that support opposing opinions: a conflict between their rationally held views on the one hand and their emotions and desires on the other.out of hand1. not under control. 2. without taking time to think: they rejected negotiations out of hand.the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing used to convey that there is a state of confusion within a group or organization.set (or put) one's hand to start work on.stay someone's hand restrain someone from acting.take a hand become influential in determining something; intervene: fate was about to take a hand in the outcome of the championship.to hand within easy reach: have a pen and paper to hand.turn one's hand to undertake (an activity different from one's usual occupation): a music teacher who turned his hand to writing books.wait on someone hand and foot attend to all someone's needs or requests, esp. when this is regarded as unreasonable.with one hand (tied) behind one's back with serious limitations or restrictions: at the moment, the police are tackling record crime rates with one hand tied behind their back. ∎ used to indicate that one could do something without any difficulty: I could do her job with one hand tied behind my back.PHRASAL VERBS: hand something down1. pass something on to a younger person or a successor: songs are handed down from mother to daughter. 2. announce something, esp. a judgment or sentence, formally or publicly.hand something in give something to a person in authority for their attention.hand something on pass something to the next person in a series or succession: he had handed on the family farm to his son. ∎ pass responsibility for something to someone else; delegate.hand something out1. give a share of something or one of a set of things to each of a number of people; distribute: they handed out free drinks to everyone. 2. impose or inflict a penalty or misfortune on someone.hand over pass responsibility to someone else: he will soon hand over to a new director.hand someone/something over give someone or something, or the responsibility for someone or something, to someone else: hand the matter over to the police.hand something around offer something to each of a number of people in turn: a big box of chocolates was handed around.DERIVATIVES: hand·less adj.
from hand to mouth satisfying only one's immediate needs because of lack of money for future plans and investments; recorded from the early 16th century.
hand in glove in close collusion or association.
hand of glory originally a French charm made from a mandrake root; the phrase is a translation of French main de gloire, an alteration of the original mandragore ‘mandrake’. Later, the term came to mean a charm made from the hand of an executed criminal.
the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world proverbial saying, mid 19th century, referring to the strength of a woman's indirect influence on the male world; originally from the American poet William Ross Wallace (d. 1881), ‘For the hand that rocks the cradle Is the hand that rules the world.’
one hand for oneself and one for the ship proverbial saying, late 18th century, meaning literally, hold on with one hand, and work the ship with the other.
one hand washes the other referring to cooperation between two closely linked persons or organizations. The saying is recorded in English from the late 16th century, but a similar thought is found earlier in Greek, in the writing of the poet Epicharmus (c.530–440 bc), and in Latin, in the writings of the Roman philosopher and poet Seneca the Younger (c.4 bc–ad 65).
put one's hand to the plough set out on a task from which one will not be deflected; originally with biblical allusion to Luke 9:62, ‘No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’
the right hand doesn't know what the left hand's doing used to convey that there is a state of confusion within a group or organization; sometimes with biblical allusion to Matthew 6:3, ‘When thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.’
with one hand tied behind one's back with serious limitations or restrictions.
See also a bird in the hand, eat out of one's hand, full cup, steady hand, hands, invisible hand, iron hand in a velvet glove.
Hence hand vb. handle, furl; lead by the hand; deliver with the hand XVII. Comps.; handbook OE. handbōc, tr. medL. manuālis liber, late L. manuāle MANUAL. handcuff XVIII, handful OE., handkerchief XVI, hand XIV, handmaiden XIII, handwriting XVI.
a round of applause, 1590; something resembling a hand in appearance or function. See also bunch.
Examples: hand of applause, 1590; of bananas, 1881; of bridge; of cards, 1630; of herrings [five], 1861; of oranges [five], 1851; of tobacco, 1726; of whist, 1771.