Definition of hand in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /hand/


1The end part of a person’s arm beyond the wrist, including the palm, fingers, and thumb: the palm of her hand he was leading her by the hand
More example sentences
  • Fold the thumb of the left hand into the palm of the hand and wrap the fingers around the thumb.
  • Squeeze the soil ball between your thumb and fingers in the palm of your hand to make a ribbon.
  • The spike from the fence went through his wrist and into the palm of his hand.
fist, palm
informal paw, mitt, duke, hook, meat hook
Scottish & Northern English  nieve
technical manus, metacarpus
1.1A prehensile organ resembling the hand and forming the end part of a limb of various mammals, such as that on all four limbs of a monkey.
Example sentences
  • The idea is that a monkey inserts its hand, clenches it around the maize, and then cannot withdraw its clenched fist.
  • The creature was digging its tiny hands into a burnt log, and its face was covered in black soot.
  • The wing's main support was an amazingly elongated fourth digit in the hand.
1.2West Indian A person’s arm, including the hand: that dog bite me on mi hand, right below the elbow
More example sentences
  • Leggo mi hand.
  • mi wife has bought a 'dog' a bound no bigger than mi hand.
1.3 [as modifier] Operated by or held in the hand: hand luggage
More example sentences
  • The washbag needs to be in your hand luggage as when you least desire it the plane will temporarily or permanently lose your luggage.
  • She was not amused but I guess she totally misunderstood the concept of hand luggage.
  • Security staff stopped me after my hand luggage went through the security scanner.
1.4 [as modifier or in combination] Done or made manually rather than by machine: hand signals a hand-stitched quilt
More example sentences
  • The jumpers, both machine and hand knit, are available in all sizes and colours.
  • But he wryly added that full control of a vehicle should always be maintained when making hand signals.
  • An aggressive u-turn and associated hand signals to other drivers followed.
1.5 [in singular] informal A round of applause: his fans gave him a big hand
More example sentences
  • Let's give them each a big hand.
  • Step forward our friends at - you guessed it, give them a big hand - Scotland on Sunday.
  • What scares me is that many of those who voted for her in the past now think she's insane, and yet she gets a big hand abroad.
round of applause, clap, handclap, ovation, standing ovation;
applause, handclapping, praise, acclaim
1.6A person’s handwriting: he inscribed the statement in a bold hand
More example sentences
  • This manuscript is written in a bold hand, with black ink, and is illuminated with rude portraits of the Evangelists.
  • Even fountain pens, though invented around 1884, were thought to be incompatible with a neat hand, and ballpoints were definitely the devil's invention.
handwriting, writing, script, longhand, letters, pen;
penmanship, calligraphy, chirography
1.7 dated A pledge of marriage by a woman: he wrote to request the hand of her daughter in marriage
More example sentences
  • He was asking for her hand in marriage and yet he had not spoken a word of love.
  • However he hasn't counted on how far Bianca's suitors will go to gain her fair hand in marriage.
  • A week later he was down on his knees asking for her hand in marriage.
2Something resembling a hand in form, in particular:
2.1A bunch of bananas: mottled hands of bananas
More example sentences
  • I was late for work this morning because I had to call into Tesco's on the way, to buy a hand of bananas and some custard.
  • The hands of bananas are packed in cartons.
2.2British A forehock of pork.
Example sentences
  • Remove the hand of pork from the forequarter by a cut through the arm knuckle (between the blade bone and arm bone).
  • Take a hand of pork (other cuts will do, but the hand is optimum; five or six pounds' weight is your target here, and it must be on the bone), place in a large pan and cover with water.
3A pointer on a clock or watch indicating the passing of units of time: the second hand
More example sentences
  • The gigantic hands of the clock watching over us up on the wall made me impatient.
  • I have a pint of Guinness as we chat and then a second as the clock hands crawl past one.
  • The hands of Bella's clock quietly ticked away as she stared down at the five outfits on her bed.
pointer, indicator, needle, arrow, marker, index
4 (hands) Used in reference to the power to direct something: the day-to-day running of the house was in her hands they are taking the law into their own hands
More example sentences
  • It's this bogus idea of putting power into the hands of the people.
  • The consequent reduction of the public sector puts even more power in the hands of the corporate elite.
  • Put the power in the hands of one person, he said, and the world will start changing the way it should be changed.
control, power, charge, authority;
command, responsibility, guardianship, management, care, supervision, jurisdiction;
possession, keeping, custody, clutches, grasp;
informal say-so
literary thrall
4.1 (usually a hand) An active role in achieving or influencing something: he had a big hand in organizing the event
More example sentences
  • Reg Goodfellow, with two goals and two assists, had a hand in all four La Broquerie goals.
  • Dave Robinson starred as he scored one and had a hand in the other four goals.
  • He had a hand in all four goals that gave Celtic an astonishing victory over the Serie A giants.
4.2 (usually a hand) Help in doing something: do you need a hand?
More example sentences
  • Bradford's Industrial Museum has been giving a helping hand to a textile archive in Leeds.
  • "Do you need a hand?" I ask.
help, a helping hand, assistance, aid, support, succour, relief;
a good turn, a favour, a kindness
rare abettance
5A person’s workmanship, especially in artistic work: his idiosyncratic hand
More example sentences
  • It does not matter that they are multiples or that we cannot actually see the artists' hand in the facture of the work.
  • Tyler attributes the strength of the work to the artist's hand.
5.1 [with adjective] A person who does something to a specified standard: I’m a great hand at inventing
More example sentences
  • I am a wise and experienced hand at this stuff and I know when I am right.
  • I'm not a great hand at forgery, but I think I could have made a fair stab at running off some copies.
  • Now Granny was no beauty expert, but she was a fair hand at remedies and keep fit herbs when we were children.
6A person who engages in manual labour, especially in a factory, on a farm, or on board a ship: a factory hand the ship was lost with all hands
More example sentences
  • It concerns a factory hand who is sent to Coventry by his co-workers when he refuses to go on strike.
  • Workers back then were beings with blue collars, drivers or wharfies or factory hands.
  • She had starred at the wood each morning since she had been hired as a hand on farm at the age of 12.
worker, factory worker, manual worker, unskilled worker, blue-collar worker, workman, workwoman, workperson, working man, labourer, operative, hired hand, hireling, roustabout, employee, artisan;
farmhand, farm worker, field hand;
crewman, sailor, deckhand;
in Spanish America peon;
Australian/New Zealand  rouseabout;
Indian  mazdoor, khalasi
archaic mechanical
7The set of cards dealt to a player in a card game: he’s got a good hand figurative the situation does not give them a strong hand at the negotiating table
More example sentences
  • Players are dealt a hand of five cards and play is around the table as one would expect.
  • The total value of all the cards in the hands of the other players is added to the winner's cumulative score.
  • It's like being dealt a hand of cards, before arranging them into suits.
7.1A round or short spell of play in a card game: they played a hand of whist
More example sentences
  • There is bad news today for any bald, guitar-playing Afghani who likes a hand of Bridge.
  • When one player has won four tricks, the hand is over and that player is the winner.
  • He played golf into his late 80s, tended a large garden, and played a fine hand at bridge.
7.2 Bridge The cards held by a declarer as opposed to those in the dummy: declarer won in hand and led ♣J
More example sentences
  • In any case, Kyle Larsen cleared spades as Jonathan won in hand.
  • Build up an image of declarer's hand with inferences from the bidding and from the way declarer and partner play.
8A unit of measurement of a horse’s height, equal to 4 inches (10.16 cm).
Denoting the breadth of a hand, formerly used as a more general lineal measure and taken to equal three inches
Example sentences
  • Direct Access is no pony himself and at 17 hands is the biggest horse in Lungo's yard.
  • How many hands high was Secretariat?


1 [with two objects] Pick (something) up and give it to (someone): he handed each man a glass I handed the trowel back to him
More example sentences
  • Morgan finally dug up a gemstone, picked it up and handed it to Evelyn, who put it in a bag.
  • Someone threw it over the barriers and the security guard picked it up and handed it to me!
  • Kneeling down, she handed the dog a treat and picked it up, scooping it carefully with her arm.
pass, give, reach, let someone have, throw, toss;
pass to, hand over to, deliver to, present to, transfer to, convey to
informal chuck, bung
2 [with object and adverbial of direction] Hold the hand of (someone) in order to guide them in a specified direction: he handed them into the carriage
More example sentences
  • The footmen handed her into the coach, the coachman snapped his whip, and off they drove in grand style.
  • He handed her down from the coach, and led her into the hail where the company was assembled.
assist, help, aid, give someone a hand, give someone a helping hand, give someone assistance;
guide, convey, conduct, lead
3 [with object] Sailing Take in or furl (a sail): hand in the main!
More example sentences
  • To stow (hand) the sail the sheets are released and the clewlines and buntlines are pulled tight.
  • Hand in the main!



all hands on deck

A cry or signal used on board ship, typically in an emergency, to indicate that all crew members are to go on deck.
Example sentences
  • We were now encountering the last minute and Dingle had all hands on deck to rescue their rapidly sinking ship.
  • When conditions finally permitted, it was all hands on deck as we formed teams heaving on a forest of ropes to hoist Eda's huge sails.
  • Rounding the rock is a thrilling experience with all hands on deck to trim the sails for the return leg, another 170 miles to the Bishop Rock off the Scilly Isles, and then 90 miles to the finishing line at Plymouth.
1.1Used to indicate that the involvement of all members of a team is required: it was all hands on deck getting breakfast ready
More example sentences
  • But I will admit that hosting such an event requires all hands on deck.
  • The last few minutes of this meal requires all hands on deck.
  • The front-of-house team start today - it's all hands on deck to get the event up and running for the press and private view tomorrow.

at hand

Close by: a mortar burst close at hand
More example sentences
  • The M50 is also close at hand, and there are several primary and secondary schools within the vicinity.
  • There is a good selection of shops, restaurants and bars close at hand and the city centre is within walking distance.
  • Close at hand there is a table-tomb with an inscription which could still be read at the turn of the 20th century.
2.1Readily accessible when needed: doctors can have vaccines at hand to immunize any child who comes for treatment
More example sentences
  • It is also illegal to serve them more alcohol in that condition - and particularly as they have glass readily at hand.
  • The information was readily at hand and easily retrievable.
  • The notional addressee is likely to want to use materials readily at hand to make essentially the same thing as is disclosed in the prior art.
readily available, available, handy, to hand, near at hand, within reach, accessible, ready, close, close by, near, nearby, at the ready, at one's fingertips, at one's disposal, convenient
informal get-at-able, on tap
2.2Close in time; about to happen: a breakthrough in combating the disease may be at hand
More example sentences
  • Some long-awaited good news on Laybourne Lakes, Hessay, is at hand.
  • The current relative quiet on the Israeli-Palestinian front shouldn't lull anyone into believing that peace is at hand.
  • Thanking the protective services for their quick response, Aboud said he hoped that success was close at hand.
imminent, close at hand, approaching, forthcoming, coming, coming soon, about to happen, nearly on us, just around the corner, on the horizon;

at (or by) the hands (or hand) of

Through the agency of: he will undergo tests at the hands of a senior neurologist
More example sentences
  • The JNA invaded Slovenia immediately after it declared its independence (only to suffer heavy and disgracing losses at the hand of hastily organized militias).
  • Indeed, it seems as though the melody and continuity suffered slightly at the hand of all these exclamation marks that Maestra Hewitt procured.
  • And with this deed, Roderigo is lead to his death by the hands of none other than, ‘Honest Iago.’

bind (or tie) someone hand and foot

Tie someone’s hands and feet together.
Example sentences
  • The robber turned on him as he was watching television, pulled out a six-inch bladed knife, tied him hand and foot, and left him gagged on the floor too terrified to move.
  • While under interrogation, Puiggrós was tied hand and foot and mistreated physically, but when workers attempted to help him they were threatened with harm.
  • Two men carrying handcuffs and leg irons came for him at his mother's home in Sacramento, Calif., shoved him into a van and bound him hand and foot.

by hand

By a person and not a machine: the crop has to be harvested by hand
More example sentences
  • Incisions made by hand or machine have carved out this unique landscape for centuries.
  • Otherwise it will be cast aside to be sorted by hand, as the machine operates on county names.
  • Use strips of ribbon or braid to make a family monogram, or embroider it by hand or machine.
manually, with one's hands, using one's hands, not by machine, not mechanically, freehand
5.1(Of mail) delivered in person rather than posted: he drafted a statement and sent it by hand
More example sentences
  • It is not specifically stated that it must be in writing, but this is implied by the fact that it is to be given either by post or delivery by hand.
  • If you cannot find a post box you can deliver your entry by hand to the Weekender at Bridge Street, Sligo.
  • Election chiefs in Oldham and Tameside organised teams of volunteer council workers to deliver the papers by hand.

get (or keep) one's hand in

Become (or remain) practised in something: I like to keep my hand in by catering for private functions
More example sentences
  • So in order to keep his hand in at the game, he is hoping to practice at Kilkenny.
  • At least if you're fit - and you're not playing - you can always train and keep your hand in.
  • If I fail, well, I've kept my hand in with the day job and it'll be back to selling whisky down at Leith.

get (or lay) one's hands on

Find or get something: I haven’t got my hands on a copy yet
More example sentences
  • Like tickets for a 1970's concert for The Who, investors practically stampeded to get their hands on the paper.
  • Like most children I read every Roald Dahl book I could get my hands on.
  • Each player is focusing on the task ahead, anxiously waiting to get his hands on the red ball.

give (or lend) a hand

Assist in an action or enterprise: the policemen lent a hand in getting the stretcher up the steps
More example sentences
  • But due to soaring demand a second assistant lends a hand.
  • Why the state should lend a hand to assist people already doing a fair bit better than the basic wage beats me.
  • Each age group is run by a qualified rugby coach, but parents are encouraged to lend a hand.
help, help out, give a helping hand, assist, give assistance, aid, make a contribution, do someone a favour, take part, do one's bit;
informal pitch in, muck in, get stuck in, get involved

hand in glove

In close collusion or association: they were working hand in glove with our enemies
More example sentences
  • We have worked hand in glove for over 50 years to establish international institutions and a set of norms to govern civilized behavior in the era of nuclear weapons and an increasingly interdependent world.
  • Our ultimate ambition is to have our own Rugby Development Officer working hand in glove with the schools.
  • There was speculation that a few corporates were hand in glove with institutional players and brokers to depress the market so that there would be a substantial reduction in the equity valuation of the stocks.
in close collaboration, in close association, in close cooperation, very closely, closely together, in partnership, in league, in collusion
informal in cahoots

hand in hand

Pronunciation: /ˌhand ɪn ˈhand/
(Of two people) with hands joined, especially as a mark of affection: walking hand in hand with my father down the street
More example sentences
  • As they walked hand in hand down the sidewalk to the park, Mark looked at her askance.
  • Together, hand in hand, they walked slowly toward the empty space in his living room.
  • So we walked together, hand in hand, a perfect pair of lovers bathed in the moonlight.
holding hands, clasping hands, with hands clasped, with hands joined;
arm in arm
10.1Closely associated or connected: she had the confidence that usually goes hand in hand with experience
More example sentences
  • To be fair, this point goes hand in hand with the previous one.
  • Surveys show that well-managed shooting land goes hand in hand with a wider and richer diversity of plants and wildlife.
  • We should all bear this in mind, for territorial ambition often goes hand in hand with the censor's creed.
in close association, closely together, together, in partnership, closely, conjointly, concurrently, side by side, in concert

hand someone something on a plate

informal Make something very easily obtainable for someone: it was a win handed to him on a plate
More example sentences
  • It couldn't really be claimed that Alloa created the better chances of the first half; they were handed them on a plate.
  • Admittedly he had luck on his side that day, because the hot favourite Ichi Beau was in front and looking like a winner when he crashed out of contention at the second-last fence, handing Minster Glory the race on a plate.
  • Telling me that I could wear the pretty dresses, the fancy hair adornments and the magical shoes and prance around under the twinkling lights with applause at the end was like handing me the world on a plate.

the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world

proverb The person who raises a child determines the character of that child and so influences the type of society that the next generation will create.
Example sentences
  • They say the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world; in my mother's case this seemed to be true.
  • I decided that as I had four children, I would multiply my skills by four, thus quadrupling my influence in the corporate world; after all, "the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world".
  • A future leader of the women's movement said: "Educate your women and the nation will take care of itself, the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world."

(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 modifier]: a hand-to-mouth existence
More example sentences
  • I'd rather live hand to mouth than get money for nothing.
  • Back in 1970, at the start of his four-year stint living hand to mouth as a translator in Paris, Auster had begun working on a difficult early novel, made all the more difficult for him because it relied on a female narrator.
  • The teachers now recognize that they face a very difficult decision: working alone in the U.S. and scraping some money together to wire home, or bringing over their families and living hand to mouth.
precariously, from day to day, not knowing where one's next meal is coming from, uncertainly, insecurely, in poverty, meagrely;
British  on the breadline

hands down

Easily and decisively: Swindon won hands down
More example sentences
  • The envious look on my fellow competitors' faces reflected my own view: I was going to win this race hands down.
  • I will say hands down they are the most wondrous thing in the world I have ever seen.
  • McCrann has exhibited how superior intellect will defeat sloganeering hands down.
easily, effortlessly, with ease, with no trouble, with very little trouble, without effort, with very little effort
informal by a mile, no sweat

hands off

Used as a warning not to touch or interfere with something: hands off that cake tin!
More example sentences
  • We feel that Yorkshire doesn't really deserve it, so hands off, it's ours.
  • Now that development threatens the playground of the elite they cry hands off.
(as adjective hands-off)15.1 Not involving or requiring direct control or intervention: a hands-off management style
More example sentences
  • Such loyalty and his hands-off management style might have worked in a privately owned business.
  • Usual physiotherapy produced marginally better treatment outcomes at 12 months than the shorter, hands-off intervention.
  • So this is why I'm concerned with creating the right culture of hands-off management at PaxDigita.


Pronunciation: /handzˈɒn/
Involving or offering active participation rather than theory: hands-on in-service training
More example sentences
  • The time is equally divided between interactive theory classes and hands-on practical classes.
  • Patients were able to participate and gain hands-on experience.
  • In all, participants get hands-on training in eight skill areas of hunting and taking game.
Computing 16.1 Involving or requiring personal operation at a keyboard.
Example sentences
  • Keyboard shortcuts and tabbing support hands-on keying, or you can utilize standard mouse-click functionality.

hands up!

Used as an instruction to raise one’s hands in surrender or to signify assent or participation: hands up who saw the programme!
More example sentences
  • Hands up who likes an old fashioned boy?
  • The cop shouted, "Hands up — police!"

have a hand in something

Be involved in doing something: the girls had a hand in writing the lyrics
More example sentences
  • Others hurl insults at neighboring Syria, blamed by many Lebanese for having a hand in the crimes.
  • Consistently, they have denied they duck each other, or that their father has a hand in the outcome of matches.
  • Kelley, one of Hollywood's most prolific TV writer-producers, had a hand in creating most of the scripts.

have one's hands full

Have as much work as one can do: I can’t do the job—I’ve got my hands full at my desk
More example sentences
  • Staff on the labour and maternity wards had their hands full as 10 tiny tots arrived thick and fast following Big Ben's chimes.
  • The traffic police have their hands full in managing the crowds on this already busy thoroughfare.
  • In other words, you have your hands full already with existing problems.

have one's hands tied

informal Be unable to act freely: he cannot have his hands tied on how his department’s money is spent
More example sentences
  • Parents are either unable or unwilling to do anything, teachers have their hands tied, the police are impotent and the Judiciary Services have let us down.
  • So with Anderson's help he can parade himself before the IOC as having his hands tied by judicial process when pleading Australia is not soft on drugs in sport.
  • It seems ridiculous that someone capable of building something that will actually secure our future is having his hands tied.

have to hand it to someone

informal Used to acknowledge the merit or achievement of someone: I’ve got to hand it to you—you’ve got the magic touch
More example sentences
  • For all the bile that's been spilled this year about WFF, I do have to hand it to them, they collected well over 300 movies, and many of them do look intriguing.
  • Maybe we were not on top of our game but you just have to hand it to them.
  • Observers have been noting for a while that Crossmolina have lost some of their pep, and that is undoubtedly true and understandable, but you have to hand it to them, they keep on grinding out the results nevertheless.

in hand

1Receiving or requiring immediate attention: he threw himself into the work in hand
More example sentences
  • I told the sound guy that I didn't want to be miked up today; this was too important an outing for me and I needed nothing to divert my attention from the job in hand.
  • If it took this defeat to refocus attention to the matter in hand then it might prove to be no bad thing.
  • But during the long days at sea, the men and women on board keep busy with a wide range of activities and exercises quite apart from the immediate task in hand.
being dealt with, receiving attention, being attended to, under way;
under control
1.1In progress: negotiations are now well in hand
More example sentences
  • The building of the extra gullies was well in hand, and considerable progress had been made with the pitching of the surface of the roadway.
2Ready for use if required; in reserve: he had £1,000 of borrowed cash in hand
More example sentences
  • Isis had her staff in hand, ready to do whatever was needed.
  • The second day, after a call from my new friend Steve and a complicated process of money being wired to the local consulate I faced the city with cash in hand, which is necessary to do any place justice.
  • The sale price is a multiple of less than four times pre-tax profits at the company which has €4.2m cash in hand and no bank loans or overdrafts.
available for use, ready, available, put by;
spare, in reserve
3Under one’s control: the police had the situation well in hand
More example sentences
  • We were in front today and I had it all in hand; we were controlling the pace, the bike was going well and then something totally unexpected happens.
  • Airport bosses are unaware of the reasons behind the captain's delay but insist that air traffic control had the incident in hand.
  • So I do trust his judgment, and I'm sure he's got the situation well in hand.
3.1(Of land) farmed directly by its owner and not let to tenants.
Example sentences
  • The rest of the land is in hand and farmed by Aubourn; this year's crop is wheat.
  • The more farms in hand, the more subsidy - so vacated farms were invariably taken over by existing farmers.

in safe hands

Protected by or in the care of someone trustworthy: the future of the cathedral is in safe hands
More example sentences
  • The weekly club was a haven for carers who could either leave the person they cared for in safe hands for a few hours or stay and chat with others in the same situation.
  • We are strictly governed by rules of professional conduct, which means the public are protected and can feel confident that they are in safe hands.
  • The society retains possession of the library but can now be reassured that it is in safe hands and can be so much more widely used.

make (or lose or spend) money hand over fist

informal Make (or lose or spend) money very rapidly: they are losing money hand over fist
More example sentences
  • Anyone who doesn't bother to check regularly whether they're getting value for money for their current financial products is probably losing money hand over fist.
  • While corporate America would rather be making money hand over fist, Robin argues, the neocons are in search of a fight ‘between good and evil, civilization and barbarism.’
  • But four-fifths of broadcast network TV is now delivered to homes by cable or satellite - not free - and NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox are making money hand over fist.

many hands make light work

proverb A task is soon accomplished if several people help.
Example sentences
  • To quote the old saying, many hands make light work.
  • Just when you are thinking too many cooks spoil the broth, suddenly someone will remind you that many hands make light work.
  • Putting the Lantern Parade together is a huge job and many hands make light work.

not (or never) do a hand's turn

informal Do no work at all: they sit there without doing a hand’s turn
More example sentences
  • Jaysus, him and Ethel didn't do nawthin but lay about all day and ate the grub that Norman worked so hard tee pay for and bejaysus they never did a hand's turn round the place.
  • Captain Hagberd, for instance, outlines to Bessie the duties of a good wife: ‘when a husband gets back from his work he needs a lot of water for a wash, not that [a beloved husband should] ever need to do a hand's turn after he comes home ’.
  • In the house I'm not let do a hand's turn for myself: somebody else must do it and touch me for it.

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
More example sentences
  • Marca reports Carvajal and an English agent are working on the deal and claim Real would be glad to get him off their hands.
  • There are two parties interested in taking the club off Boyle 's hands and Jackson hopes a deal might be concluded around the middle or second half of the new season.
  • It might be only too happy if the council took St James House off its hands, possibly as part of a deal on the council's site opposite Haymarket Station.

on every hand

All around: new technologies were springing up on every hand
More example sentences
  • New branches of business are constantly springing up on every hand.
  • I point out that, to the contrary, neo-Nazis are prone to very complex thinking - since their view of the world is contradicted on every hand.
  • The Left believe in NO inborn limits on what human arrangements will work whereas Mark sees limits on every hand.

on hand

1Present, especially for a specified purpose: her trainer was on hand to give advice
More example sentences
  • The 2004 Rose will be on hand later to present the trophy to the winning connections in the race which bears her name.
  • Mayor of Waterford, Seamus Ryan was on hand to present certificates at Waterford City Library.
  • Kildare footballer John Doyle was on hand to present the county awards.
1.1Readily available: she kept stocks of delicacies on hand
More example sentences
  • The problem is that cash on hand isn't always available to directly pay off debt.
  • If you don't have homemade chicken stock on hand, use canned or a powdered base.
  • In truth, no one wanted to blow a chance at a sale by admitting they keep spare parts on hand to fix glasses under warranty.
2Needing to be dealt with: they had many urgent and pressing matters on hand
More example sentences
  • I believe that all of us should give our best to the work on hand.
  • Clearly our new business manager at Athletics Ireland has a huge task on hand to market the sport and get big crowds back to see the sport.
  • Thanks was extended to John Robinson, the regular judge, for all his commitment and dedication to the job on hand.

on someone's hands

1Used to indicate that someone is responsible for dealing with someone or something: he has a difficult job on his hands
More example sentences
  • Make no mistake, the manager and his staff have still got a difficult job on their hands, and it's a very strict budget they will have to work to in the coming months.
  • The analysts said Thomson had a very difficult job on his hands.
  • Teachers in England, who have been instructed by MP David Blunkett to stop children using mobiles at school except for ‘essential’ calls, will have a job on their hands.
1.1Used to indicate that someone is to blame for something: he has my son’s blood on his hands
More example sentences
  • The American media have blood on their hands.
  • It was precisely the Shah's slamming of the opposition that prepared the grounds for the extreme reaction of the Islamic fundamentalists and people like yourself have blood on your hands for supporting the Shah.
  • And then the cameras panned high up to the gallery where two young women were standing, one holding a ‘Blood on your hands ' banner.
2At someone’s disposal: since I retired I’ve had more time on my hands
More example sentences
  • There are far too many hours of gameplay in Fable as it is, and the nearly infinite decision-dependent variations mean if you've got far too much time on your hands, you'll probably enjoy repeating the entire game over and over again.
  • If you're just avidly curious with way too much time on your hands, check out the generations of good-bye notes, starting with the AOL acquisition of Netscape and continuing up to the present day.
  • I mean, if you were banking 40 grand or more a week, and had a copious amount of free time on your hands, there are surely a million more imaginative ways to spend your time than mincing around celeb-studded night clubs in your Gucci threads!

on the one (or the other) hand

Used to present factors which are opposed or which support opposing opinions: a conflict between their rationally held views on the one hand and their emotions and desires on the other
More example sentences
  • On the other hand, a number of species collected were found in only a single drainage.
  • On the other hand, there are those who are at large but whose addresses are well known or ought to be known to the police.
  • On the other hand, will someone please explain why so many roses are permanently hooked up with weeds?

out of hand

1Not under control: things were getting a bit out of hand at the picket line
More example sentences
  • The wild flowers are getting a bit out of hand and I've had to do a little selective pruning.
  • It was a bit unusual but I just thought someone who hated dogs and was crazy just let things get a bit out of hand.
  • It was a pity that the game got a bit out of hand in the last quarter and that three players were sidelined.
out of control, uncontrollable, unmanageable, ungovernable, unruly, disorderly, rowdy, wild, boisterous, difficult, disruptive, ill-disciplined, undisciplined, refractory, recalcitrant, intractable, impossible, obstreperous, fractious, wayward, incorrigible
informal stroppy
archaic contumacious
2Without taking time to think: they rejected negotiations out of hand
More example sentences
  • His last attempt at negotiating with an unwavering leader has now been rejected out of hand.
  • Howard claims to be flabbergasted that anyone should reject it out of hand.
  • The Sunday Herald has seen the confidential document which prompted the SRU to reject the deal out of hand.

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.
Example sentences
  • The saying "the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing" was never more true than in modern day Cuba.
  • The problem I have with the IRS is that the tax code is so wretchedly complicated that the right hand doesn't know what the left is doing.

a safe pair of hands

(In a sporting context) used to refer to someone who is reliable when catching a ball: he has a safe pair of hands and made the catch look easy
More example sentences
  • Terry Pearson broke up several threatening attacks and Bentley was once again showing a safe pair of hands in the home goal.
  • He is also a very good fielder with a safe pair of hands.
  • Particularly Pietersen, oddly enough, since he is a fine fielder, an intelligent cricketer and a safe pair of hands.
34.1Used to denote someone who is capable, reliable, or trustworthy in the management of a situation: they were searching for a safe pair of hands to oversee the running of the lottery
More example sentences
  • In the short term, management will want to install a safe pair of hands in the editor's chair, someone who can pull off the balancing act of both stemming the Mirror's falling circulation and keeping their head down.
  • Regarded as a safe pair of hands, he manages to combine a strong streak of entrepreneurship with a cautious and balanced approach to control and risk.
  • Those who saw him as a safe pair of hands when he succeeded a dispirited Paul Sturrock in August presumably thought the former Aberdeen and St Mirren manager would use such experience to bolster a struggling squad.

set (or put) one's hand to

Start work on: having set his hand to any task, he would see it through to the end
More example sentences
  • They explored every direction they could imagine going in, and succeeded in producing beautiful songs in whatever musical style they put their hand to.
  • I personally think it is one of the more daring pieces I have put my hand to in a while and I like a lot of it, although I am far from saying that is not in need of serious revision; much of it needs considerable work.
  • I really am thoroughly mediocre at everything I've ever put my hand to: advertising, academia, journalism.

stay someone's hand

Restrain someone from acting: his feelings made him stay his hand before announcing his decision
More example sentences
  • After an exhausting fight, Vader is poised to finish Luke off, but he stays his hand.
  • Many have been staying their hand for years waiting for new laws allowing them to share part of their spouse's pension.
  • The disciplinary committee will clearly have stayed their hand during the legal proceedings but I would assume it will now be reviewed by the committee, who will take whatever action they deem necessary.

take a hand

Become influential in determining something; intervene: fate was about to take a hand in the outcome of the championship
More example sentences
  • Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman took a hand in negotiations in an effort to avert a strike but was not willing to offer any additional money.
  • Aged 18, the dole office beckoned, but fate took a hand on the final day of filming when they were offered a recording contract à la Robson & Jerome.
  • Then Carlow took a hand in their own destiny and posted points from Brian Carbery and Johnny Nevin to equalise in the 29th minute.

take someone/something in hand

Deal with or take control of someone or something: their parents are incapable of taking their children in hand
More example sentences
  • The Tudors were the first of the English to take Ireland in hand seriously.
  • Fortunately Mrs. Collins was a fairly intelligent woman and took matters in hand.
  • When Tilly had returned to London for this season I had quickly taken her in hand.

talk to the hand

(also tell it to the hand)
[in imperative] informal Used as a contemptuous way of dismissing what someone has said (often accompanied by a gesture in which the palm of the hand is held in front of the original speaker’s face): talk to the hand, girl, 'cos the face ain’t listening
More example sentences
  • Now talk to the hand 'cause the head ain't listening.
  • I half expected him to snap his fingers and in a sassy voice proclaim "talk to the hand."
  • "Talk to the hand", was always his reply.

to hand

Within easy reach: have a pen and paper to hand
More example sentences
  • Having this detailed information to hand can make it easier to find the most appropriate deal.
  • All borrowers need to do is have their membership number to hand, ready to enter using the phone keys.
  • The moral is to be prepared and always have an umbrella near to hand, just in case!
readily available, available, handy, near at hand, within reach, accessible, ready, close, close by, near, nearby, at the ready, at one's fingertips, at one's disposal, convenient
informal get-at-able

turn one's hand to

Undertake (an activity different from one’s usual occupation): a music teacher who turned his hand to writing books
More example sentences
  • ‘That's why I can turn my hand to so many different jobs,’ he said.
  • His was a talent to touch on many different topics: he turned his hand to criticism about music, the drama and the visual arts.
  • A farmer by occupation, he could turn his hand to other jobs, too, such as building, carpentry, gardening, butchering, poetry and lots of other chores about the house.

wait on someone hand and foot

Attend to all someone’s needs or requests, especially when this is regarded as unreasonable: I was wallowing in the luxury of the hotel, being waited on hand and foot
More example sentences
  • I also surmised that she is one of these women who is subservient to her husband and waits on him hand and foot.
  • He pampered me as he always does when I'm sick and waited on me hand and foot and now I feel so overwhelmingly guilty that I'm just going to pack it in and go to bed before he says ‘are you ok?’
  • But that's the thing - people wait on you hand and foot.

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
More example sentences
  • One of the biggest issues we heard about the Viet Nam war was that our men and women were forced to fight the war with one hand tied behind their back.
  • Although a democracy must often fight with one hand tied behind its back, it nonetheless has the upper hand.
  • He's forcing them, the scientific community, to really go forward with these potential breakthroughs, with one hand tied behind their back.

Phrasal verbs


hand something down

1Pass something on to a younger person or a successor: songs are handed down from mother to daughter
More example sentences
  • Of course they can conserve these things only by handing them down, by passing them on to their children, or to somebody's children.
  • It used to belong to my father, but before he passed away he handed it down to me.
  • The songs were handed down in special hand-copied notebooks.
pass on, pass down;
bequeath, will, leave, leave in one's will, make over, endow, gift, transfer, give, transmit;
Law  demise, devise
2Announce something, especially a judgement or sentence, formally or publicly: it was the most liberal decision ever handed down by a football authority
More example sentences
  • One way round such fears is to allow the relatives to speak after the sentence has been handed down, some critics suggest.
  • Two weeks later the formal decision was handed down to close the private bank, a bitter pill that Citigroup recently disclosed cost it $244 million in the fourth quarter alone.
  • I ought formally to hand the judgment down, unless, having read it, you have noticed any errors or omissions?

hand something in

Give something to a person in authority for their attention: we handed in a letter of protest
More example sentences
  • In order to receive the said pizza, the Vets would just have to finish five book reports and hand them in to the proper authorities for inspection.
  • The man was unaware of the concern he had caused and when he realised what had happened he handed the gun in voluntarily to the police.
  • If you wish to submit any articles please hand them in to Thomas Keane before this date.

hand someone off

Rugby Push away a tackling opponent with one’s hand.
Example sentences
  • Moments later the visitors took the lead for the first time as Williams handed off Andrew Trimble to score the match's only try 11 minutes into the second half.
  • Davies handed off his man and released flanker and man of the match Tom Hocking for a charge up the touchline.

hand something on

Pass something to the next person in a series or succession: he had handed on the family farm to his son
More example sentences
  • But they remain less than owners; they are more like trustees, with an obligation to maintain the structure and hand it on to successors in good working order.
  • Giuliani preached personal responsibility to the city's citizens, but he led by the example of his own willingness to take responsibility for making the city work and handing it on to his successor in markedly better shape than he found it.
  • ‘They had been in my family for generations, and the idea was to hand them on to my children,’ he said.
give, pass, hand, transfer, grant, cede, surrender, relinquish;
part with, let go of;
bequeath, will, leave
4.1Pass responsibility for something to someone else; delegate: for most managers there is little choice but to hand on work
More example sentences
  • The market town's museum will be responsible for it for six weeks before handing it on.
  • I will be very sad to leave them but I know I am handing them on to a well-trained young team who value the horses and the work they do.
  • He talks about handing batons on, of the uselessness of the country's universities in providing its galleries with the proper staff, of the neglect of connoisseurship, of the absence of a latter - day Bernard Berenson or Kenneth Clark.

hand something out

1Give a share of something or one of a set of things to each of a number of people; distribute: Ralph handed out cigars
More example sentences
  • Beer giant Budweiser is to be hauled before a court to explain how a promotional event where free drinks were handed out to revellers ended in the death of a student.
  • The pub will also be doing street promotions where vouchers for a free drink will be handed out, which doubles as an entry form.
  • Compensation also came from a charity fund, which accumulated donations from all over the world, divided the money into 352 equal shares and handed it out to close relatives.
distribute, hand round, give out, give round, pass out, pass round, share out, dole out, dish out, deal out, mete out, issue, circulate, dispense;
allocate, allot, apportion, disburse, disseminate
2Impose or inflict a penalty or misfortune on someone: harsher punishments are being handed out to reckless drivers
More example sentences
  • The reason - what the Ninth Circuit is looking at - the issue here is how the death penalty was handed out in the first place, whether it was a judge or jury.
  • Financial penalties will be handed out to councils who fail to meet targets.
  • In May, eight caravans were taken straight off the road, mainly because they were too heavy for the vehicles towing them, while two fixed penalties and 13 warnings were handed out for the same reason.

hand over

Pass responsibility to someone else: he will soon hand over to a new director
More example sentences
  • However, after seven years, the time has come for me to hand over to a new Chair who can build on those achievements.
  • "It really is time for me to hand over to the next generation.

hand someone/thing over

Give someone or something, or the responsibility for someone or something, to someone else: her parents handed her over to be brought up by her grandparents
More example sentences
  • He told Scotland on Sunday that Dewar hadn't known about the secret cost increases at the time because responsibility for the project had been handed over to Steel.
  • Meanwhile, badly needed investment in the Underground is mired in a row over the arrangements under which responsibility for it will be handed over to the GLA.
  • When a parent hands their children over to the school it is the school's responsibility to look after them.
yield, give, give up, pass, grant, entrust, surrender, relinquish, cede, turn over, deliver up, forfeit, sacrifice;
confer on, bestow on

hand something round (or around)

Offer something to each of a number of people in turn: a big box of chocolates was handed round
More example sentences
  • Traditional sweets were handed round after the deal, as the convicted men and the relatives of their victims embraced each other.
  • Various products were handed round for all to try, smell etc., and many went home with very smooth hands from the sampling!
  • About lunchtime there was more eating and chat and a few smoky barbecues lit up and bangers and burgers were handed around.



Pronunciation: /ˈhandləs/
Example sentences
  • But every genre has its talentless, dreadful army of handless practitioners, and yet somehow, unlike poor old horror, they all still manage to get away with not having their finest sons and daughters tarred with the brush of the hopeless.
  • This doll was homemade, it was obvious, stitched together from now-turquoise and pink scraps, with a round head, handless arms, and footless legs.
  • Twenty-five years ago, the Mr Asia drug ring came to a bloody end, with the discovery of Aucklander Marty Johnstone's handless, mutilated body in an English quarry.


Old English hand, hond, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch hand and German Hand.

  • Since the Middle Ages hand has had the secondary meaning ‘a person’, as in farmhand or deckhand. All hands is the entire crew of a ship—the orders all hands on deck and all hands to the pump call upon all members of the crew, and now of any team, to assist. The phrase hand over fist also came from sailing. Originally it was hand over hand, describing the action of a sailor climbing a rope or hauling it in. By the 1820s the idea of speed had been extended to other contexts such as the rapid progress of a ship in pursuit of another, and soon after it was being used much more generally of any action done quickly. Nowadays, it is almost always making money that is done hand over fist. Horse racing gave us hands down. A jockey who won hands down was so certain of winning that he could lower his hands, relax his grip on the reins, and stop urging on his horse. A handle (Old English) gets its name because it is held in the hand. See also handsome

Words that rhyme with hand

and, band, bland, brand, expand, firsthand, gland, grand, land, manned, misunderstand, offhand, rand, righthand, Samarkand, sand, stand, strand, thirdhand, underhand, undermanned, understand, unplanned, untanned, withstand

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: hand

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.