Middle English hondlen, handlen, "touch with the hands, hold in the hands, fondle, pet," also "to deal with, treat, manhandle," from Old English handlian "to touch or move with the hands," also "deal with, discuss;" formed from hand (n.), perhaps with a frequentative suffix, as fondle from fond. Cognate with Old Norse höndla "to seize, capture," Danish handle "to trade, deal," Old High German hantalon "feel, touch; manage," German handeln "to bargain, trade." Related: Handled; handling. Meaning "to act towards" (someone, in a certain manner, usually with hostility or roughness) is from c. 1200. The commercial sense "to trade or deal in" was weaker in English than in some other Germanic languages, but it strengthened in American English (by 1888) from the notion of something passing through one's hands, and see handler.