Definition of hand noun from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary




part of body

1 [countable] the part of the body at the end of the arm, including the fingers and thumbI 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) see also left-hand, right-hand


2 (in adjectives) using the hand or number of hands mentioneda one-handed catchleft-handed scissors (= intended to be held in your left hand)


3 a hand [singular] (informal) help in doing somethingLet 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.

role in situation

4 [singular] hand in something the part or role that someone or something plays in a particular situation; someone's influence in a situationEarly 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.

on clock/watch

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


6 [countable] a person who does physical work on a farm or in a factory see also farmhand, hired hand, stagehand


7 [countable] a sailor on a shipAll hands on deck! see also deckhand


8 (in compounds) by a person rather than a machinehand-painted potteryhand-knittedThis item should be hand washed. see also handmade

in card games

9 [countable] a set of playing cards given to one player in a gameto be dealt a good/bad hand10 [countable] one stage of a game of cardsI'll have to leave after this hand.


11 [singular] (old use) a particular style of writing see also freehand

measurement for horse

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, underhandIDIOMS

all hands on deck

(saying, humorous) everyone helps or must help, especially in a difficult situationThere are 30 people coming to dinner tonight, so it's all hands on deck.all hands on deck

(close/near) at hand

close to you in time or distance
Help was at hand.The property is ideally located with all local amenities close at handclose at handat handnear at hand

at the hands of someone


at someone's hands

(formal) if you experience something at the hands of someone, they are the cause of itThey suffered years of repression at the hands of the old the hands of

be good with your hands

to be skillful at making or doing things with your hands
be good with your hands

bind/tie someone hand and foot

1 to tie someone's hands and feet together so that they cannot move or escape2 to prevent someone from doing what they want by creating rules, restrictions, etc.bind hand and foottie hand and foot

a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

(saying) it is better to keep something that you already have than to risk losing it by trying to get much morea bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

bite the hand that feeds you

to harm someone who has helped you or supported you
bite the hand that feeds you

by hand

1 by a person rather than a machineThe fabric was painted by hand.2 if 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 mailby hand

change hands

to pass to a different owner
The house has changed hands several times.change hands

the dead hand of something

an influence that controls or restricts something
We need to free business from the dead hand of bureaucracy.the dead hand of

the devil makes work for idle hands

(saying) people who do not have enough to do often start to do wrongShe blamed the crimes on the local jobless teenagers. “The devil makes work for idle hands,” she would say.the devil makes work for idle hands

eat out of your/someone's hand

to trust someone and be willing to do what they say
She'll have them eating out of her hand in no out of your hand

fall into someone's hands/the hands of someone

(formal) to become controlled by someoneThe 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.fall into hands hands offall into the hands of

a firm hand

strong control or discipline
Those children need a firm hand to make them behave.a firm hand

(at) first hand

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.first handat first hand

fold your hands

to bring or hold your hands together with the fingers bent
She kept her hands folded in her lap.fold your hands

force someone's hand

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.force hand

gain, get, have, etc. the upper hand

to get an advantage over someone so that you are in control of a particular situation
gain, get, have, etc. the upper hand

get your hands dirty

(also dirty your hands) to do physical or difficult workHe's not frightened of getting his hands dirty.get your hands dirty

get, have, etc. a free hand

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.get, have, etc. a free hand

give someone/get a big hand

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 a big handgive get a big hand

go hat in hand (to someone)

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 cap in hand to his brother.go hat in handgo hat in hand to

someone's hand (in marriage)

(old-fashioned) permission to marry someone, especially a womanHe asked the general for his daughter's hand in marriage.handhand in marriage

hand in glove (with someone)

working closely with someone, especially in a secret and/or illegal way
hand in glovehand in glove with

hand in hand

1 if two people are hand in hand, they are holding each other's handThey walked through the park hand in hand.2 if two things go hand in hand, they are closely connected and one thing causes the otherPoverty and poor health often go hand in hand.hand in hand

hands down

(informal) easily and without any doubtThey won hands down.It is hands down the best movie this year. see also hands-down adjective.hands down

(get/take your) hands off (something/someone)

(informal) used to tell someone not to touch something or someoneGet your hands off her!Hey, hands off! That's my drink!hands offget your hands offhands offtake your hands off

hands up!

(informal)1 used 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 used by someone who is threatening people with a gun to tell them to raise both hands in the airhands up!

have someone's blood on your hands

to be responsible for someone's death
a dictator with the blood of thousands on his handshave blood on your hands

have your hands full

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 full

have your hands tied

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 your hands tied

have someone in the palm of your hand

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 in the palm of your hand

have time on your hands


have time to kill

(informal) to have nothing to do or not be busyhave time on your hands

have/hold, etc. the whip hand (over someone/something)

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.have, etc. the whip handhave, etc. the whip hand overhold, etc. the whip handhold, etc. the whip hand over

heavy hand

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 managementheavy hand

hold someone's hand

to give someone support in a difficult situation
Do you want me to come along and hold your hand?hold hand

in someone's capable, safe, etc. hands

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?in capable, safe, etc. hands

in hand

1 if you have money in hand, it is left and available to be usedWe managed to redecorate the house and still have some savings in hand.2 if you have a particular situation in hand, you are in control of itDon't worry about the travel arrangements—everything is in hand.3 the job, question, hand is the one that you are dealing withPlease confine your comments to the topic in hand

in the hands of someone


in someone's hands

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 the hands of

in safe hands


in the safe hands of someone

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 safe hands

I only have one pair of hands

(informal) used to say that you are too busy to do anything elseI only have one pair of hands

an iron fist/hand

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 iron fistan iron hand

keep your hand in

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.keep your hand in

know someone/something inside out


know someone/something like the back of your hand

(informal) to be very familiar with somethingThis is where I grew up. I know this area like the back of my hand.know inside out

lay/get your hands on someone

to catch someone that you are annoyed with
Wait till I get my hands on him!lay your hands onget your hands on

lay/get your hands on something

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?lay your hands onget your hands on

live (from) hand to mouth

to spend all the money you earn on basic needs such as food without being able to save any money
live hand to mouthlive from hand to mouth

make/lose money hand over fist

to make/lose money very fast and in large quantities
make money hand over fistlose money hand over fist

many hands make light work

(saying) used to say that a job is made easier if a lot of people helpmany hands make light work

offer your hand

(formal) to hold out your hand for someone to shakeoffer your hand

off your hands

no longer your responsibility
off your hands

on either/every hand

(literary) on both/all sides; in both/all directionsMist curled from the water on either hand.on either handon every hand

on hand

available, especially to help
The emergency services were on hand with medical advice.on hand

on your hands

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 your hands

on the one hand… on the other (hand)…

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.on the one hand on the otheron the one hand on the other hand

out of hand

1 difficult or impossible to controlUnemployment is getting out of hand.2 if you reject, etc. something out of hand, you do so immediately without thinking about it fully or listening to other people's argumentsAll our suggestions were dismissed out of hand.out of hand

out of your hands

no longer your responsibility
I'm afraid the matter is now out of my hands.out of your hands

overplay your hand

to spoil your chance of success by judging your position to be stronger than it really is
overplay your hand

play into someone's hands

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' into hands

(like) putty in someone's hands

easily controlled or influenced by another person
She'll persuade him. He's like putty in her hands.putty in handslike putty in hands

raise a/your hand against/to someone

to hit, or threaten to hit, someone
raise a hand against/toraise your hand against/to

(at) second, third, etc. hand

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!second, third, etc. handat second, third, etc. hand

show your hand/cards

(also tip your hand) to make your plans or intentions knownshow your handshow your cards

stay your hand

(old-fashioned or literary) to stop yourself from doing something; to prevent you from doing somethingstay your hand

take someone in hand

to deal with someone in a strict way in order to improve their behavior
take in hand

take something into your own hands

to deal with a particular situation yourself because you are not happy with the way that others are dealing with it
take into your own hands

take the law into your own hands

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 the law into your own hands

take your life in your hands

to risk being killed
You take your life in your hands just crossing the street here.take your life in your hands

throw your hand in

(informal) to stop doing something or taking part in something, especially because you are not successfulthrow your hand in

to hand

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 hand

try your hand (at something)

to do something such as an activity or a sport for the first time
try your handtry your hand at

turn your hand to something

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.turn your hand to

wait on someone hand and foot

(disapproving) to take care of someone's needs so well that they do not have to do anything for themselvesHe seems to expect me to wait on him hand and foot.wait on hand and foot

wash your hands of someone/something

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.wash your hands of

win (something) hands down

(informal) to win something very easilywin hands down

wring your hands

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 handwringingwring your hands
Usage noteUsage note: contrasthighlighting differencesThis 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.⇨ Language Banks at generally, illustrate, proportion, similarly, surprisingUsage noteUsage note: Physical AppearanceA person may be described as having:eyes(bright) blue/green/(dark/light) brown/hazel eyesdeep-set/sunken/bulging/protruding eyessmall/beady/sparkling/twinkling/shifty eyespiercing/penetrating/steely eyesbloodshot/watery/puffy eyesbushy/thick/dark/raised/arched eyebrowslong/dark/thick/curly/false eyelashes/lashesfacea flat/bulbous/pointed/sharp/snub nosea straight/a pointy/a Roman/an aquiline nosefull/thick/thin/pouty lipsdry/chapped/cracked lipsflushed/rosy/red/ruddy/pale cheekssoft/chubby/sunken cheekswhite/perfect/crooked/protruding teetha large/high/broad/wide foreheada strong/weak/pointed/double china long/full/bushy/wispy bearda full/thin goateea long/thin/bushy/droopy/handlebar/pencil mustachehair and skinpale/fair/olive/dark/tanned skindry/oily/smooth/rough/leathery/wrinkled skina dark/pale/light/sallow/ruddy/olive/swarthy/clear complexiondeep/fine/small/facial wrinklesblonde/blond/fair/(light/dark) brown/(jet-)black/auburn/red/ginger/gray hairstraight/curly/wavy/frizzy/spiky hairthick/thin/fine/bushy/thinning hairdyed/bleached/soft/silky/dry/greasy/shiny hairlong/short/shoulder-length/cropped haira bald/balding/shaved heada receding hairlinea bald patch/spota side/center partbodya long/short/thick/slender/(disapproving) scrawny neckbroad/narrow/sloping/rounded/hunched shouldersa bare/broad/muscular/small/large chesta flat/round/swollen/bulging stomacha small/tiny/narrow/slim/slender/28-inch waistbig/wide/narrow/slim hipsa straight/bent/arched/broad/hairy backthin/slender/muscular armsbig/large/small/manicured/calloused/gloved handslong/short/fat/slender/delicate/bony fingerslong/muscular/hairy/shapely/(both informal, often disapproving) skinny/spindly legsmuscular/chubby/(informal, disapproving) flabby thighs/calvesbig/little/small/dainty/wide/narrow/bare feeta good/slim/slender/hourglass figurebe of slim/medium/average/large/athletic/stocky buildUsage noteUsage note: using your handstouchThese verbs describe different ways of touching things:brush She brushed the silk with her fingertips.feel I felt the bag to see what was in it.handle Handle the fruit with care.pat He patted my arm and told me not to The dog loves being petted.rub She rubbed her eyes wearily.squeeze I took his hand and squeezed it.stroke He stroked her hair lovingly.tap Someone was tapping lightly at the door.holdYou can use these verbs to describe taking something quickly:grab I grabbed his arm to keep myself from falling.snatch She snatched the letter out of my hand.These verbs describe holding things tightly:clasp Her hands were clasped behind her head.clutch The child was clutching a doll in her hand.grasp Grasp the rope with both hands and pull.grip He gripped the bag tightly and wouldn’t let go.