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At the hands of

the terminal, prehensile part of the upper limb in humans and other primates, consisting of the wrist, metacarpal area, fingers, and thumb.
the corresponding part of the forelimb in any of the higher vertebrates.
a terminal prehensile part, as the chela of a crustacean, or, in falconry, the foot of a falcon.
something resembling a hand in shape or function, as various types of pointers:
the hands of a clock.
(def 8).
a person employed in manual labor or for general duties; worker; laborer:
a factory hand; a ranch hand.
a person who performs or is capable of performing a specific work, skill, or action:
a real hand at geometry.
skill; workmanship; characteristic touch:
a painting that shows a master’s hand.
a person, with reference to ability or skill:
He was a poor hand at running a business.
a member of a ship’s crew:
All hands on deck!
Often, hands. possession or power; control, custody, or care:
to have someone’s fate in one’s hands.
a position, especially one of control, used for bargaining, negotiating, etc.:
an action to strengthen one’s hand.
means, agency; instrumentality:
death by his own hand.
assistance; aid; active participation or cooperation:
Give me a hand with this ladder.
side; direction:
no traffic on either hand of the road.
style of handwriting; penmanship:
She wrote in a beautiful hand.
a person’s signature:
to set one’s hand to a document.
a round or outburst of applause for a performer:
to get a hand.
a promise or pledge, as of marriage:
He asked for her hand in marriage.
a linear measure equal to 4 inches (10.2 centimeters), used especially in determining the height of horses.

the cards dealt to or held by each player at one time.
the person holding the cards.
a single part of a game, in which all the cards dealt at one time are played.

Roman Law. (def 2).
hands, Manège. skill at manipulating the reins of a horse:
To ride well, one must have good hands.
a bunch, cluster, or bundle of various leaves, fruit, etc., as a bundle of tobacco leaves tied together or a cluster of bananas.
Machinery. the deviation of a thread or tooth from the axial direction of a screw or gear, as seen from one end looking away toward the other.
Building Trades.

the position of the hinges of a door, in terms of right and left, as seen from outside the building, room, closet, etc., to which the doorway leads.
the position of the hinges of a casement sash, in terms of right and left, from inside the window.

Also called handle. the fabric properties that can be sensed by touching the material, as resilience, smoothness, or body:
the smooth hand of satin.
Archaic. a person considered as a source, as of information or of supply.
to deliver or pass with or as if with the hand.
to help, assist, guide, etc., with the hand:
He handed the elderly woman across the street.

to take in or furl (a sail).
to haul on or otherwise handle.

of, belonging to, using, or used by the hand.
made by hand.
carried in or worn on the hand.
operated by hand; manual.
hand down,

to deliver (the decision of a court):
The jury handed down a verdict of guilty.
to transmit from one to another, especially to bequeath to posterity:
The ring had been handed down from her grandmother.

hand in, to submit; present for acceptance: She handed in her term paper after the deadline.
He handed his resignation in yesterday.
hand off, Football. to hand the ball to a member of one’s team in the course of a play.
hand on, to transmit; pass on to a successor, posterity, etc.:
The silver service was handed on to the eldest daughter of the family.
hand out, to give or distribute; pass out:
People were handing out leaflets on every corner.
hand over,

to deliver into the custody of another:
Hand your wallet over now!
to surrender control of:
He handed over his business to his children.

at first hand. (def 1).
at hand,

within reach; nearby; close by.
near in time; soon.
ready for use:
We keep a supply of canned goods at hand.

at second hand. (def 3).
at the hand / hands of, by the action of; through the agency of:
They suffered at the hands of their stepfather.
by hand, by using the hands, as opposed to machines; manually:
lace made by hand.
change hands, to pass from one owner to another; change possession:
The property has changed hands several times in recent years.
come to hand,

to come within one’s reach or notice:
He was moved to tears when his father’s old journal came to hand.
to be received; arrive:
The spring stock came to hand last week.

eat out of one’s hand, to be totally submissive to another; be very attentive or servile:
That spoiled brat has her parents eating out of her hand.
force one’s hand, to prompt a person to take immediate action or to reveal his or her intentions:
The criticism forced the governor’s hand so that he had to declare his support of the tax bill.
from hand to hand, from one person to another; through successive ownership or possession:
The legendary jewel went from hand to hand.
from hand to mouth, improvidently; precariously; with nothing in reserve:
They looked forward to a time when they would no longer have to live from hand to mouth.
give one’s hand on / upon, to give one’s word; seal a bargain by or as if by shaking hands:
He said the goods would be delivered within a month and gave them his hand on it.
hand and foot,

so as to hinder movement:
They tied him hand and foot.
slavishly and continually:
Cinderella had to wait on her stepsisters hand and foot.

hand and glove, very intimately associated:
Several high-ranking diplomats were found to be hand and glove with enemy agents.
Also, hand in glove.
hand in hand,

with one’s hand enclasped in that of another person.
closely associated; concurrently; conjointly:
Doctors and nurses work hand in hand to save lives.

hand in one’s checks, Chiefly British, 1 (def 7).
hand it to, Informal. to give just credit to; pay respect to:
You have to hand it to her for getting the work out.
hand over fist, speedily; increasingly:
He owns a chain of restaurants and makes money hand over fist.
hands down,

effortlessly; easily:
He won the championship hands down.
indisputably; incontestably:
It was hands down the best race I’ve ever seen.

hands off!, don’t touch, strike, or interfere! keep away from!:
Hands off my stereo!
hands up!, hold your hands above your head! give up!
hand to hand, in direct combat; at close quarters:
The troops fought hand to hand.
have a hand in, to have a share in; participate in:
It is impossible that she could have had a hand in this notorious crime.
have one’s hands full, to have a large or excessive amount of work to handle; be constantly busy:
The personnel department has its hands full trying to process the growing number of applications.
hold hands, to join hands with another person as a token of affection:
They have been seen holding hands in public.
in hand,

under control:
He kept the situation well in hand.
in one’s possession:
cash in hand.
in the process of consideration or settlement:
regarding the matter in hand.

join hands, to unite in a common cause; combine:
The democracies must join hands in order to survive.
keep one’s hand in, to continue to practice:
He turned the business over to his sons, but he keeps his hand in it. I just play enough golf to keep my hand in.
lay one’s hands on,

to obtain; acquire:
I wish I could lay my hands on a good used piano.
to seize, especially in order to punish:
He wanted to lay his hands on the person who had backed into his car.
to impose the hands in a ceremonial fashion, as in ordination:
The bishop laid hands on the candidates.

lend / give a hand, to lend assistance; help out:
Lend a hand and we’ll finish the job in no time.
lift a hand, to exert any effort:
She wouldn’t lift a hand to help anyone.
Also, lift a finger.
off one’s hands,

out of one’s charge or care:
Now, with their children grown and off their hands, they will be free to travel.
successfully completed; finished:
The lawyer planned a vacation as soon as the case was off his hands.

on all hands,

by everyone; universally:
It was decided on all hands to take an excursion.
on every side; all around:
piercing glances on all hands.

Also, on every hand.
on hand,

in one’s possession; at one’s disposal:
cash on hand.
about to occur; imminent:
A change of government may be on hand.
There were not enough members on hand to constitute a quorum.

on the other hand, from another side or aspect; conversely:
It was an unfortunate experience, but, on the other hand, one can learn from one’s mistakes.
on / upon one’s hands, under one’s care or management; as one’s responsibility:
He was left with a large surplus on his hands.
out of hand,

beyond control:
to let one’s temper get out of hand.
without delay; at once:
The crisis obliged him to act out of hand.
no longer in process; finished:
The case has been out of hand for some time.
without consideration or deliberation:
to reject a proposal out of hand.

shake hands, to clasp another’s hand in greeting, congratulation, or agreement:
They shook hands on the proposed partnership.
show one’s hand, to disclose or display one’s true intentions or motives:
The impending revolution forced him to show his hand.
sit on one’s hands,

to be unenthusiastic or unappreciative; fail to applaud:
It was a lively show, but the audience sat on its hands.
to take no action; be passive or hesitant:
While he was being beaten, the others sat on their hands.

take a hand in, to take part in; participate in:
If the strike continues, the government will have to take a hand in the negotiations.
take in hand,

to undertake responsibility for; assume charge:
When both parents died, an uncle took the youngster in hand.
to deal with; treat of:
We’ll take the matter in hand at the next meeting.

throw up one’s hands, to admit one’s inadequacy, exasperation, or failure; despair:
When the general received reports of an enemy build-up, he threw up his hands.
tie one’s hands, to render one powerless to act; thwart:
The provisions of the will tied his hands.
Also, have one’s hands tied.
tip one’s hand, to reveal one’s plans or intentions before the propitious time.
to hand,

within reach; accessible or nearby.
into one’s possession:
A search of the attic brought some valuable antiques to hand.

try one’s hand (at), to test one’s skill or aptitude for:
After becoming a successful painter, he decided to try his hand at sculpture.
turn / put one’s hand to, to set to work at; busy oneself with:
He turned his hand successfully to gardening.
wash one’s hands of, to disclaim any further responsibility for; renounce interest in or support of:
I washed my hands of the entire affair.
with a heavy hand,

with severity; oppressively:
The law will punish offenders with a heavy hand.
in a clumsy manner; awkwardly; gracelessly:
The play was directed with a heavy hand.

with a high hand, in an arrogant or dictatorial manner; arbitrarily:
He ran the organization with a high hand.

the prehensile part of the body at the end of the arm, consisting of a thumb, four fingers, and a palm
the bones of this part related adjective manual

the corresponding or similar part in animals
something resembling this in shape or function

the cards dealt to one or all players in one round of a card game
a player holding such cards
one round of a card game

agency or influence: the hand of God
a part in something done: he had a hand in the victory
assistance: to give someone a hand with his work
a pointer on a dial, indicator, or gauge, esp on a clock: the minute hand
acceptance or pledge of partnership, as in marriage: he asked for her hand, he gave me his hand on the merger
a position or direction indicated by its location to the side of an object or the observer: on the right hand, on every hand
a contrastive aspect, condition, etc (in the phrases on the one hand, on the other hand)
(preceded by an ordinal number) source or origin: a story heard at third hand
a person, esp one who creates something: a good hand at painting
a labourer or manual worker: we’ve just taken on a new hand at the farm
a member of a ship’s crew: all hands on deck
(printing) another name for index (sense 9)
a person’s handwriting: the letter was in his own hand
a round of applause: give him a hand
ability or skill: a hand for woodwork
a manner or characteristic way of doing something: the hand of a master
a unit of length measurement equalling four inches, used for measuring the height of horses, usually from the front hoof to the withers
a cluster or bundle, esp of bananas
a shoulder of pork
one of the two possible mirror-image forms of an asymmetric object, such as the direction of the helix in a screw thread
a free hand, freedom to do as desired
(usually used with a negative) a hand’s turn, a small amount of work: he hasn’t done a hand’s turn
a heavy hand, tyranny, persecution, or oppression: he ruled with a heavy hand
a high hand, an oppressive or dictatorial manner
at hand, near at hand, very near or close, esp in time
at someone’s hand, at someone’s hands, from: the acts of kindness received at their hands
by hand

by manual rather than mechanical means
by messenger or personally: the letter was delivered by hand

come to hand, to become available; be received
force someone’s hand, to force someone to act
from hand to hand, from one person to another
from hand to mouth

in poverty: living from hand to mouth
without preparation or planning

hand and foot, in all ways possible; completely: they waited on him hand and foot
hand in glove, in an intimate relationship or close association
hand in hand

together; jointly
clasping each other’s hands

hand over fist, steadily and quickly; with rapid progress: he makes money hand over fist
hold one’s hand, to stop or postpone a planned action or punishment
hold someone’s hand, to support, help, or guide someone, esp by giving sympathy or moral support
in hand

in possession
under control
receiving attention or being acted on
available for use; in reserve
with deferred payment: he works a week in hand

keep one’s hand in, to continue or practise
lend a hand, to help
on hand, close by; present: I’ll be on hand to help you
out of hand

beyond control
without reservation or deeper examination: he condemned him out of hand

set one’s hand to

to sign (a document)
to start (a task or undertaking)

show one’s hand, to reveal one’s stand, opinion, or plans
take in hand, to discipline; control
throw one’s hand in, See throw in (sense 3)
to hand, accessible
try one’s hand, to attempt to do something

of or involving the hand: a hand grenade
made to be carried in or worn on the hand: hand luggage
operated by hand: a hand drill

(in combination) made by hand rather than by a machine: hand-sewn
verb (transitive)
to transmit or offer by the hand or hands
to help or lead with the hand
(nautical) to furl (a sail)
hand it to someone, to give credit to someone
have a nice day

Old English hond, hand “hand; side; power, control, possession,” from Proto-Germanic *khanduz (cf. Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Dutch, German hand, Old Norse hönd, Gothic handus). The original Old English plural handa was superseded in Middle English by handen, later hands.

Meaning “person who does something with his hands” is from 1580s, hence “hired workman” (1630s) and “sailor in a ship’s crew” (1660s). Clock and watch sense is from 1570s. Meaning “round of applause” is from 1838. The linear measure of 4 inches (originally 3) is from 1560s, now used only in giving the height of horses. The meaning “playing cards held in one player’s hand” is from 1620s; that of “a round at a card game” is from 1620s.

First hand, second hand, etc. (mid-15c.) are from the notion of something being passed down from hand to hand. Out of hand (1590s) is opposite of in hand “under control” (c.1200). Hand over fist (1825) is suggestive of sailors and fishermen hauling in nets. Hand jive is from 1958. To win something hands down (1855) is from horse racing, from a jockey’s gesture of letting the reins go loose in an easy victory.

The Two Thousand Guinea Stakes was not the best contested one that it has been our fortune to assist at. … [T]hey were won by Meteor, with Scott for his rider; who went by the post with his hands down, the easiest of all easy half-lengths. Wiseacre certainly did the best in his power to spoil his position, and Misdeal was at one time a little vexatious. [“The Sportsman,” report from April 26, 1840]

To hand it to (someone) “acknowledge someone’s ability” is slang from c.1906. Phrase on the one hand … on the other hand is recorded from 1630s, a figurative use of the physical sense of hand in reference to position on one side or the other side of the body (as in the lefthand side), which goes back to Old English Hands up! as a command from a policeman, robber, etc., is from 1873. Hand-to-mouth is from c.1500. Hand-in-hand attested from c.1500 as “with hands clasped;” figurative sense of “concurrently” recorded from 1570s.


c.1400, “take charge of, seize,” from hand (n.). Meaning “to pass (something to someone)” is from 1640s. Related: Handed; handing.

hand (hānd)

The terminal part of the human arm located below the forearm, used for grasping and holding and consisting of the wrist, palm, four fingers, and an opposable thumb.

A homologous or similar part in other animals.


To give, esp something not desired; bestow forcefully, fraudulently, etc: The Red Sox handed the Yankees a 12 to 3 shellacking/ What kind of con job was he trying to hand you? (1919+)

Related Terms

both hands, cool hand, dead man’s hand, give someone the glad hand, glad-hand, have one’s hands full, not lay a glove on someone, tip one’s mitt, with one’s hand in the till, with one hand tied behind one’s back
have a nice day

Called by Galen “the instrument of instruments.” It is the symbol of human action (Ps. 9:16; Job 9:30; Isa. 1:15; 1 Tim. 2:8). Washing the hands was a symbol of innocence (Ps. 26:6; 73:13; Matt. 27:24), also of sanctification (1 Cor. 6:11; Isa. 51:16; Ps. 24:3, 4). In Ps. 77:2 the correct rendering is, as in the Revised Version, “My hand was stretched out,” etc., instead of, as in the Authorized Version, “My sore ran in the night,” etc. The right hand denoted the south, and the left the north (Job 23:9; 1 Sam. 23:19). To give the right hand was a pledge of fidelity (2 Kings 10:15; Ezra 10:19); also of submission to the victors (Ezek. 17:18; Jer. 50:15). The right hand was lifted up in taking an oath (Gen. 14:22, etc.). The hand is frequently mentioned, particularly the right hand, as a symbol of power and strength (Ps. 60:5; Isa. 28:2). To kiss the hand is an act of homage (1 Kings 19:18; Job 31:27), and to pour water on one’s hands is to serve him (2 Kings 3:11). The hand of God is the symbol of his power: its being upon one denotes favour (Ezra 7:6, 28; Isa. 1:25; Luke 1:66, etc.) or punishment (Ex. 9:3; Judg. 2:15; Acts 13:11, etc.). A position at the right hand was regarded as the chief place of honour and power (Ps. 45:9; 80:17; 110:1; Matt. 26:64).

hand and foot
hand down
hand in glove
hand in hand
hand in the till, with one’s
hand it to
hand on
hand out
hand over
hand over fist
hand over hand
hand to hand
hand to mouth, from
hand to on a silver platter

also see:

at first hand
at hand
at second hand
at the hand of
back of one’s hand
bare hands
bird in the hand
bite the hand that feeds you
bound hand and foot
by hand
catch red-handed
change hands
clean hands
cold hands, warm heart
deal in (one a hand)
dirty one’s hands
eat out of someone’s hand
feed (hand) someone a line
force someone’s hand
free hand
from hand to hand
give a hand
glad hand
grease someone’s palm (hand)
hang heavy on one’s hands
hat in hand
have a hand in
have one’s hands full
heavy hand
helping hand
in good hands
in hand
in one’s hands
in the hands of
iron hand
keep one’s hand in
know like a book (the back of one’s hand)
lay hands on
left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing
left-handed compliment
lend a hand
many hands make light work
off one’s hands
on a platter, hand
on hand
on one’s hands
on the one hand
on the other hand
out of control (hand)
out of hand
play into the hands of
putty in someone’s hands
raise a hand against
right-hand man
rub one’s hands
shake hands
show of hands
show one’s hand
sit on one’s hands
sleight of hand
take in hand
take into one’s hands
take one’s life (in one’s hands)
take the law into one’s hands
throw in one’s hand
throw up one’s hands
tie one’s hands
time on one’s hands
tip one’s hand
to hand
try one’s hand
turn one’s hand to
upper hand
wait on hand and foot
wash one’s hands of
with one arm (hand) tied


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