Etymology
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handiwork (n.)

late 12c., from Old English handgeweorc "work of the hand, creation," from hand (n.) + geweorc, collective form of weorc "work" (see work (n.)). Old English collective prefix ge- regularly reduces to i- in Middle English, and the word probably came to be felt as handy + work.

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handcuff (n.)

1640s as a decorative addition to a sleeve; 1690s as a type of restraining device, from hand (n.) + cuff (n.) in the "fetter for the wrist" sense (attested from 1660s). Old English had hondcops "a pair of hand cuffs," but the modern word is a re-invention. Related: Handcuffs. The verb is first attested 1720. Related: Handcuffed; handcuffing.

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handbook (n.)

Old English handboc "handbook, manual;" see hand (n.) + book (n.). It translates Latin manualis, and was displaced in Middle English by manual (from French), and later in part by enchiridion (from Greek). Reintroduced 1814 in imitation of German Handbuch, but execrated through much of 19c. as "that very ugly and very unnecessary word" [Richard Chenevix Trench, "English Past and Present," 1905].

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forehand (adj.)

1879 in reference to a tennis stroke; 1909 as a noun in this sense; from fore- + hand (n.). Earlier it meant "position in front or above" (1550s); hence forehanded "prudent, careful of the future" (1640s), which came to mean "well-provided, well-to-do," a sense which lingered in New England into 19c.

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underhand (adv.)

mid-14c., "by secret means, stealthily, in a surreptitious manner," from under + hand (n.). Perhaps the notion is of the hand turned over (thus concealing what it holds). Compare Middle Dutch onderhanden "by degrees, slowly," Dutch onderhandsch "secret, private." The adjective is attested from 1540s. Old English under hand meant "in subjection, in (one's) control or power."

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overhand (adv.)

1570s, "upside down," from over- + hand. Sense in tennis, etc., "with the hand above that which is gripped," is by 1861. As an adjective, of throws, strokes, or bowls, "done with the hand raised above the shoulder," it is recorded by 1828 (in cricket), originally over-handed. Middle English had over-honde as a noun, "mastery, victory" (compare upper hand).

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handful (n.)

Old English handful "as much as can be held in the open hand;" see hand (n.) + -ful. Also a linear measurement of four inches, a handbreadth (early 15c.). Meaning "a small portion or part" is from mid-15c. Figurative meaning "as much as one can manage" is from 1755; figurative expression have (one's) hands full "have enough to do" is from late 15c. Plural handfulls. Similar formation in German handvoll, Danish haanfuld.

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handfast (v.)

"betroth (two people), bind in wedlock; pledge oneself to," early 12c., from Old English handfæsten and cognate Old Norse handfesta "to pledge, betroth; strike a bargain by shaking hands;" for first element see hand (n.); second element is from Proto-Germanic causative verb *fastjan "to make firm," from PIE *past- "solid, firm" (see fast (adj.)). Related: Handfasted; handfasting. The noun in Old English was handfæstung.

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backhand (adj.)

1690s, "having the hand turned backward;" see back (adv.) + hand (n.). By 1894 in reference to handwriting that flows at a back-slant. As a verb, by 1857. As a noun, in reference to tennis, 1890, short for backhand stroke or volley. The figurative adjectival sense of "indirect" is from c. 1800. Related: Backhanded; backhanding.

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handle (n.)

Old English handle "a handle" (plural handla), formed from hand (n.) with instrumental suffix -el (1) indicating a tool in the way thimble was formed from thumb, spindle from spin, spindle from spin, ladle from lade, etc. The slang sense of "nickname" is first recorded 1870, originally U.S., from earlier expressions about adding a handle to (one's) name (1833), that is, a title such as Mister or Sir. To fly off the handle (1833) is a figurative reference to an ax head (to be off the handle "be excited" is recorded from 1825, American English). To get a handle on "get control of" is recorded by 1919.

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