American English

Definition of hand noun from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



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    part of body
  1. 1[countable] the part of the body at the end of the arm, including the fingers and thumb I placed a hand on her shoulder. Put your hand up if you know the answer. Keep both hands on the steering wheel at all times. She was on (her) hands and knees (= crawling on the floor) looking for an earring. Couples strolled past holding hands. Give me your hand (= hold my hand) while we cross the road. The crowd threw up their hands (= lifted them into the air) in dismay. He killed the snake with his bare hands (= using only his hands). a hand towel (= a small towel for drying your hands on) a hand drill (= one that is used by turning a handle rather than powered by electricity) Topic CollocationsPhysical AppearanceA person may be described as having:eyes (bright) blue/green/(dark/light) brown/hazel eyes deep-set/sunken/bulging/protruding eyes small/beady/sparkling/twinkling/shifty eyes piercing/penetrating/steely eyes bloodshot/watery/puffy eyes bushy/thick/dark/raised/arched eyebrows long/dark/thick/curly/false eyelashes/lashesface a flat/bulbous/pointed/sharp/snub nose a straight/a pointy/a Roman/an aquiline nose full/thick/thin/pouty lips dry/chapped/cracked lips flushed/rosy/red/ruddy/pale cheeks soft/chubby/sunken cheeks white/perfect/crooked/protruding teeth a large/high/broad/wide forehead a strong/weak/pointed/double chin a long/full/bushy/wispy beard a full/thin goatee a long/thin/bushy/droopy/handlebar/pencil mustachehair and skin pale/fair/olive/dark/tanned skin dry/oily/smooth/rough/leathery/wrinkled skin a dark/pale/light/sallow/ruddy/olive/swarthy/clear complexion deep/fine/small/facial wrinkles blonde/blond/fair/(light/dark) brown/(jet-)black/auburn/red/ginger/gray hair straight/curly/wavy/frizzy/spiky hair thick/thin/fine/bushy/thinning hair dyed/bleached/soft/silky/dry/greasy/shiny hair long/short/shoulder-length/cropped hair a bald/balding/shaved head a receding hairline a bald patch/spot a side/center partbody a long/short/thick/slender/ (disapproving) scrawny neck broad/narrow/sloping/rounded/hunched shoulders a bare/broad/muscular/small/large chest a flat/round/swollen/bulging stomach a small/tiny/narrow/slim/slender/28-inch waist big/wide/narrow/slim hips a straight/bent/arched/broad/hairy back thin/slender/muscular arms big/large/small/manicured/calloused/gloved hands long/short/fat/slender/delicate/bony fingers long/muscular/hairy/shapely/ (informal) (often disapproving) skinny/spindly legs muscular/chubby/ (informal) (disapproving) flabby thighs/calves big/little/small/dainty/wide/narrow/bare feet a good/slim/slender/hourglass figure be of slim/medium/average/large/athletic/stocky build see also left-hand, right-hand
  2. -handed
  3. 2(in adjectives) using the hand or number of hands mentioned a one-handed catch left-handed scissors (= intended to be held in your left hand)
  4. help
  5. 3a hand [singular] (informal) help in doing something Let me give you a hand with those bags (= help you to carry them). Do you need a hand with those invoices? The neighbors are always willing to lend a hand.
  6. role in situation
  7. 4[singular] hand in something the part or role that someone or something plays in a particular situation; someone's influence in a situation Early reports suggest the hand of rebel forces in the bombings. Several of his colleagues had a hand in his downfall. This appointment was an attempt to strengthen her hand in policy discussions.
  8. on clock/watch
  9. 5[countable] (usually in compounds) a part of a clock or watch that points to the numbers see also hour hand, minute hand, second hand
  10. worker
  11. 6[countable] a person who does physical work on a farm or in a factory see also farmhand, hired hand, stagehand
  12. sailor
  13. 7[countable] a sailor on a ship All hands on deck! see also deckhand
  14. hand-
  15. 8(in compounds) by a person rather than a machine hand-painted pottery hand-knitted This item should be hand washed. see also handmade
  16. in card games
  17. 9[countable] a set of playing cards given to one player in a game to be dealt a good/bad hand
  18. 10[countable] one stage of a game of cards I'll have to leave after this hand.
  19. writing
  20. 11[singular] (old use) a particular style of writing see also freehand
  21. measurement for horse
  22. 12[countable] a unit for measuring the height of a horse, equal to 4 inches or 10.16 centimeters see also old hand, secondhand, sleight of hand, underhand
  23. Vocabulary Buildingusing your handstouchThese verbs describe different ways of touching things: brushShe brushed the silk with her fingertips. feelI felt the bag to see what was in it. handleHandle the fruit with care. patHe patted my arm and told me not to worry. petThe dog loves being petted. rubShe rubbed her eyes wearily. squeezeI took his hand and squeezed it. strokeHe stroked her hair lovingly. tapSomeone was tapping lightly at the door.holdYou can use these verbs to describe taking something quickly: grabI grabbed his arm to keep myself from falling. snatchShe snatched the letter out of my hand.These verbs describe holding things tightly: claspHer hands were clasped behind her head. clutchThe child was clutching a doll in her hand. graspGrasp the rope with both hands and pull. gripHe gripped the bag tightly and wouldn’t let go.Idioms
    all hands on deck (saying) (humorous)
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    everyone helps or must help, especially in a difficult situation There are 30 people coming to dinner tonight, so it's all hands on deck.
    (close/near) at hand
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    close to you in time or distance Help was at hand. The property is ideally located with all local amenities close at hand.
    at the hands of somebody, at somebody's hands (formal)
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    if you experience something at the hands of someone, they are the cause of it They suffered years of repression at the hands of the old regime.
    be good with your hands
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    to be skillful at making or doing things with your hands
      bind/tie somebody hand and foot
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    1. 1to tie someone's hands and feet together so that they cannot move or escape
    2. 2to prevent someone from doing what they want by creating rules, restrictions, etc.
    a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush (saying)
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    it is better to keep something that you already have than to risk losing it by trying to get much more
    bite the hand that feeds you
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    to harm someone who has helped you or supported you
    1. 1by a person rather than a machine The fabric was painted by hand.
    2. 2if a letter is delivered by hand, it is delivered by the person who wrote it, or someone who is sent by them, rather than by mail
    change hands
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    to pass to a different owner The house has changed hands several times.
    close at hand
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    near; in a place where someone or something can be reached easily I keep snacks for the kids close at hand.
    the dead hand of something
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    an influence that controls or restricts something We need to free business from the dead hand of bureaucracy.
    the devil makes work for idle hands (saying)
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    people who do not have enough to do often start to do wrong She blamed the crimes on the local jobless teenagers. “The devil makes work for idle hands,” she would say.
    eat out of your/somebody's hand
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    to trust someone and be willing to do what they say She'll have them eating out of her hand in no time.
    fall into somebody's hands/the hands of somebody (formal)
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    to become controlled by someone The town fell into enemy hands. We don't want this document falling into the wrong hands. After the war, the hotel fell into the hands of an American consortium.
    a firm hand
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    strong control or discipline Those children need a firm hand to make them behave.
    (at) first hand
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    by experiencing, seeing, etc. something yourself rather than being told about it by someone else The President visited the area to see the devastation at first hand.
    fold your hands
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    to bring or hold your hands together with the fingers bent She kept her hands folded in her lap.
    force somebody's hand
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    to make someone do something that they do not want to do or make them do it sooner than they had intended They decided to strike to force the management's hand.
    gain, get, have, etc. the upper hand
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    to get an advantage over someone so that you are in control of a particular situation
    get your hands dirty (also dirty your hands)
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    to do physical or difficult work He's not frightened of getting his hands dirty.
    get, have, etc. a free hand
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    to get, have, etc. the opportunity to do what you want to do and to make your own decisions I was given a free hand in designing the syllabus.
    give somebody/get a big hand
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    to show your approval of someone by clapping; to be applauded in this way Ladies and gentlemen, let's give a big hand to our special guests tonight…
    give/lend a helping hand
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    to help someone
    go hat in hand (to somebody)
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    to ask someone for something, especially money, in a very polite way that makes you seem less important There's no way he'll go hat in hand to his brother.
    somebody's hand (in marriage) (old-fashioned)
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    permission to marry someone, especially a woman He asked the general for his daughter's hand in marriage.
    hand in glove (with somebody)
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    working closely with someone, especially in a secret and/or illegal way
      hand in hand
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    1. 1if two people are hand in hand, they are holding each other's hand They walked through the park hand in hand.
    2. 2if two things go hand in hand, they are closely connected and one thing causes the other Poverty and poor health often go hand in hand.
    hands down (informal)
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    easily and without any doubt They won hands down. It is hands down the best movie this year. see also hands-down
    (get/take your) hands off (something/somebody) (informal)
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    used to tell someone not to touch something or someone Get your hands off her! Hey, hands off! That's my drink!
      hands up! (informal)
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    1. 1used to tell a group of people to raise one hand in the air if they know the answer to a question, etc. Hands up all those who want to go swimming.
    2. 2used by someone who is threatening people with a gun to tell them to raise both hands in the air
    have somebody's blood on your hands
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    to be responsible for someone's death a dictator with the blood of thousands on his hands
    have your hands full
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    to be very busy or too busy to do something else She certainly has her hands full with four kids in the house.
    have your hands tied
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    to be unable to do what you want to do because of rules, promises, etc. I really wish I could help but my hands are tied.
    have somebody in the palm of your hand
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    to have complete control or influence over someone Even before he plays a note, he has the audience in the palm of his hand.
    have time on your hands, have time to kill (informal)
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    to have nothing to do or not be busy
    have/hold, etc. the whip hand (over somebody/something)
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    to be in a position where you have power or control over someone or something She had the whip hand and it was useless to resist.
    a way of doing something or of treating people that is much stronger and less sensitive than it needs to be the heavy hand of management
    hold somebody's hand
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    to give someone support in a difficult situation Do you want me to come along and hold your hand?
    in somebody's capable, safe, etc. hands
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    being taken care of or dealt with by someone that you think you can rely on Can I leave these queries in your capable hands?
    1. 1if you have money in hand, it is left and available to be used We managed to redecorate the house and still have some savings in hand.
    2. 2if you have a particular situation in hand, you are in control of it Don't worry about the travel arrangements—everything is in hand.
    3. 3the job, question, etc. in hand is the one that you are dealing with Please confine your comments to the topic in hand.
    in the hands of somebody, in somebody's hands
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     being taken care of or controlled by someone The matter is now in the hands of my lawyer. At that time, the castle was in enemy hands.
    in safe hands, in the safe hands of somebody
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    being taken care of well by someone I've left the kids in safe hands—with my parents. Their problem was in the safe hands of the experts.
    I only have one pair of hands (informal)
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    used to say that you are too busy to do anything else
    an iron fist/hand
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    if you use the words an iron fist/hand when describing the way that someone behaves, you mean that they treat people severely They promised that the army would strike with an iron fist at any resistance. The iron hand approach seems to work best with this age group.
      join hands (with somebody)
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    1. 1if two people join hands, they hold each other's hands
    2. 2to work together in doing something Education has been reluctant to join hands with business.
    keep your hand in
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    to occasionally do something that you used to do a lot so that you do not lose your skill at it She retired last year but still teaches the odd class to keep her hand in.
    know somebody/something inside out, know somebody/something like the back of your hand (informal)
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    to be very familiar with something This is where I grew up. I know this area like the back of my hand.
    lay/get your hands on somebody
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    to catch someone that you are annoyed with Wait till I get my hands on him!
    lay/get your hands on something
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    to find or get something I know their address is here somewhere, but I can't lay my hands on it right now. Do you know where I can get my hands on a secondhand television?
    live (from) hand to mouth
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    to spend all the money you earn on basic needs such as food without being able to save any money
    make/lose money hand over fist
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    to make/lose money very fast and in large quantities
    many hands make light work (saying)
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    used to say that a job is made easier if a lot of people help
    offer your hand (formal)
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    to hold out your hand for someone to shake
    off your hands
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    no longer your responsibility
    on either/every hand (literary)
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    on both/all sides; in both/all directions Mist curled from the water on either hand.
    available, especially to help The emergency services were on hand with medical advice.
    on your hands
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    if you have someone or something on your hands, you are responsible for them or it Let me take care of the invitations—you've enough on your hands with the caterers. They'll have a fight on their hands if they want to close down the school.
    on the one hand… on the other (hand)…
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    used to introduce different points of view, ideas, etc., especially when they are opposites On the one hand they'd love to have kids, but on the other, they don't want to give up their freedom. Language Bankcontrasthighlighting differences This survey highlights a number of differences in the way that teenage boys and girls in the U.S. spend their free time. One of the main differences between the girls and the boys who took part in the research was the way in which they use the Internet. Unlike the girls, who use the Internet mainly to keep in touch with friends, the boys questioned in this survey tend to use the Internet for playing computer games. The girls differ from the boys in that they tend to spend more time keeping in touch with friends on the telephone or on social networking websites. Compared with the boys, the girls spend much more time chatting to friends on the telephone. On average, the girls spend four hours a week chatting to friends on the phone. In contrast, very few of the boys spend more than five minutes a day talking to their friends in this way. The boys prefer competitive sports and computer games, whereas/while the girls seem to enjoy more cooperative activities, such as shopping with friends. When the girls go shopping, they mainly buy clothes and cosmetics. The boys, on the other hand, tend to purchase computer games or gadgets.
      out of hand
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    1. 1difficult or impossible to control Unemployment is getting out of hand.
    2. 2if you reject, etc. something out of hand, you do so immediately without thinking about it fully or listening to other people's arguments All our suggestions were dismissed out of hand.
    out of your hands
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    no longer your responsibility I'm afraid the matter is now out of my hands.
    overplay your hand
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    to spoil your chance of success by judging your position to be stronger than it really is
    play into somebody's hands
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    to do exactly what an enemy, opponent, etc. wants so that they gain the advantage in a particular situation If we get the police involved, we'll be playing right into the protesters' hands.
    (like) putty in somebody's hands
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    easily controlled or influenced by another person She'll persuade him. He's like putty in her hands.
    raise a/your hand against/to somebody
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    to hit, or threaten to hit, someone
    (at) second, third, etc. hand
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    by being told about something by someone else who has seen it or heard about it, not by experiencing, seeing, etc. it yourself I'm tired of hearing about these decisions third hand!
    show your hand/cards (also tip your hand)
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    to make your plans or intentions known
    stay your hand (old-fashioned or literary)
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    to stop yourself from doing something; to prevent you from doing something
    take somebody in hand
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    to deal with someone in a strict way in order to improve their behavior
    take something into your own hands
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    to deal with a particular situation yourself because you are not happy with the way that others are dealing with it
    take the law into your own hands
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    to do something illegal in order to punish someone for doing something wrong, instead of letting the police deal with them After a series of burglaries in the area, the police are worried that residents might take the law into their own hands.
    take your life in your hands
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    to risk being killed You take your life in your hands just crossing the street here.
    throw your hand in (informal)
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    to stop doing something or taking part in something, especially because you are not successful
    that you can reach or get easily I'm afraid I don't have the latest figures to hand. Keep a pen and paper to hand for details of this week's competition.
    try your hand (at something)
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    to do something such as an activity or a sport for the first time
    turn your hand to something
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    to start doing something or be able to do something, especially when you do it well Jim can turn his hand to most jobs around the house.
    wait on somebody hand and foot (disapproving)
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    to take care of someone's needs so well that they do not have to do anything for themselves He seems to expect me to wait on him hand and foot.
    wash your hands of somebody/something
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    to refuse to be responsible for or involved with someone or something When her son was arrested again she washed her hands of him. I've washed my hands of the whole sordid business.
    win (something) hands down (informal)
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    to win something very easily
    wring your hands
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    to hold your hands together, and twist and squeeze them in a way that shows you are anxious or upset, especially when you cannot change the situation see also hand‧wring‧ing
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: hand