Quantcast
Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary
1

handsel

play
noun hand·sel \ˈhan(t)-səl\

Definition of handsel

  1. 1 :  a gift made as a token of good wishes or luck especially at the beginning of a new year

  2. 2 :  something received first (as in a day of trading) and taken to be a token of good luck

  3. 3 a :  a first installment :  earnest money b :  earnest, foretaste



Examples of handsel in a sentence

  1. <gave little handsels to their houseguests on New Year's Day>



Did You Know?

According to an old custom in the British Isles, the first Monday of the new year is Handsel Monday, a day to give a small gift or good luck charm to children or to those who have served you well. As long ago as the year 1200, English speakers were using the ancestor of handsel for any good luck charm, especially one given at the start of some new situation or condition. By the 1500s, traders were using handsel for the first cash they earned in the morning - to them, an omen of good things to follow. Nowadays, it can also be used for the first use or experience of something, especially when such a use gives a taste of things to come.

Origin of handsel

Middle English hansell


First Known Use: 14th century


2

handsel

verb hand·sel

Definition of handsel

handseled or handselledhandseling or handselling \-s(ə-)liŋ\

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 :  to give a handsel to

  3. 2 :  to inaugurate with a token or gesture of luck or pleasure

  4. 3 :  to use or do for the first time



15th Century

First Known Use of handsel

15th century

Rhymes with handsel


Learn More about handsel


Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up handsel? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

to expose to danger or risk

Get Word of the Day daily email!

WORD GAMES

Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ