hand (n.)

Old English hond, hand "the human hand;" also "side, part, direction" (in defining position, to either right or left); also "power, control, possession" (on the notion of the hand's grip or hold), from Proto-Germanic *handuz (source also of Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Dutch, German hand, Old Norse hönd, Gothic handus), which is of uncertain origin.

The original Old English plural handa was superseded in Middle English by handen, later hands. Indo-European "hand" words tend to be from roots meaning "seize, take, collect" or are extended from words originally meaning only a part of the hand (such as Irish lam, Welsh llaw, cognate with Latin palma and originally meaning "palm of the hand"). One ancient root (*man- (2)), represented by Latin manus is the source of Old English mund "hand," but more usually meaning "protection, guardianship; a protector, guardian."

Meaning "manual worker, person who does something with his hands" is from 1580s, hence "hired workman" (1630s) and "sailor in a ship's crew" (1660s). Meaning "agency, part in doing something" is from 1590s. 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. Meaning "handwriting" is from late 14c.; also "one's style of penmanship" (early 15c.). The word in reference to the various uses of hands in making a pledge is by c. 1200; specifically "one's pledge of marriage" by late 14c.

First hand, second hand, etc. (mid-15c.) are from the notion of something being passed from hand to hand. At hand is from c. 1200 as "near in time," c. 1300 as "within reach." Out of hand (1590s) is opposite of in hand "under control" (c. 1200). Adverbial phrase hand-over-fist (1803) is nautical, suggestive of hauling or climbing by passing the hands one before the other alternately.

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 1863, from the image of holding up one's hands as a token of submission or non-resistance. Hand-to-hand "in close contact," of fighting, is from c. 1400. Hand-to-mouth "said of a person who spends his money as fast as he gets it, who earns just enough to live on from day to day" [Bartlett] is from c. 1500. Hand-in-hand attested from c. 1500 as "with hands clasped;" figurative sense of "concurrently" recorded from 1570s.

hand (v.)

c. 1400, "take charge of, seize," from hand (n.). Earlier verbs were hend (Old English genehdan), handle. Meaning "to pass (something to someone)" is from 1640s. To hand it to (someone) "acknowledge someone's ability or superiority" is slang from 1906, the it perhaps meant to suggest a trophy cup, award, etc. Related: Handed; handing.

updated on October 14, 2021

Definitions of hand from WordNet
hand (n.)
the (prehensile) extremity of the superior limb;
he had the hands of a surgeon
Synonyms: manus / mitt / paw
hand (n.)
a hired laborer on a farm or ranch;
the hired hand fixed the railing
a ranch hand
Synonyms: hired hand / hired man
hand (n.)
something written by hand;
his hand was illegible
Synonyms: handwriting / script
hand (n.)
he wanted to try his hand at singing
hand (n.)
a position given by its location to the side of an object;
objections were voiced on every hand
hand (n.)
the cards held in a card game by a given player at any given time;
he kept trying to see my hand
I didn't hold a good hand all evening
Synonyms: deal
hand (n.)
one of two sides of an issue;
on the one hand..., but on the other hand...
hand (n.)
a rotating pointer on the face of a timepiece;
the big hand counts the minutes
hand (n.)
a unit of length equal to 4 inches; used in measuring horses;
the horse stood 20 hands
hand (n.)
a member of the crew of a ship;
all hands on deck
hand (n.)
a card player in a game of bridge;
we need a 4th hand for bridge
Synonyms: bridge player
hand (n.)
a round of applause to signify approval;
give the little lady a great big hand
hand (n.)
terminal part of the forelimb in certain vertebrates (e.g. apes or kangaroos); "the kangaroo's forearms seem undeveloped but the powerful five-fingered hands are skilled at feinting and clouting"- Springfield (Mass.) Union;
hand (n.)
physical assistance;
give me a hand with the chores
Synonyms: helping hand
hand (v.)
place into the hands or custody of;
hand me the spoon, please
Synonyms: pass / reach / pass on / turn over / give
hand (v.)
guide or conduct or usher somewhere;
hand the elderly lady into the taxi
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