noun, often attributive
\ ˈhand \

Definition of hand 

(Entry 1 of 4)

1a(1) : the terminal part of the vertebrate forelimb when modified (as in humans) as a grasping organ : the body part at the end of the arm of a human, ape, or monkey holding a pair of scissors in his hand She put her hands over her eyes.

(2) : the forelimb segment (such as the terminal section of a bird's wing) of a vertebrate higher than the fishes that corresponds to the hand irrespective of its form or functional specialization

b : a part serving the function of or resembling a hand: such as

(1) : the hind foot of an ape

(2) : the chela of a crustacean

c : something resembling a hand: such as

(1) : an indicator or pointer on a dial the hands of a clock

(2) : a character ☞ used to direct particular attention (as to a note or paragraph) : fist, index

(3) : a cluster of bananas developed from a single flower group

(4) : a branched rootstock of ginger

(5) : a bunch of large leaves (as of tobacco) tied together usually with another leaf

2a : personal possession usually used in plural the documents fell into the hands of the enemy

b : control, supervision usually used in plural left the matter in her hands

3a : side, direction men fighting on either hand

b : one of two sides or aspects of an issue or argument on the one hand we can appeal for peace, and on the other, declare war

4 : a pledge especially of betrothal or bestowal in marriage He asked for her hand in marriage.

5a : style of penmanship : handwriting wrote in a fancy hand

b : signature

6a : skill, ability tried her hand at sailing

b : an instrumental part had a hand in the victory

7 : a unit of measure equal to 4 inches (10.2 centimeters) used especially for the height of horses a horse that is 15 hands high

8a : assistance or aid especially involving physical effort lend a hand

b : participation, interest had no hand in the decision

c : a round of applause Let's give them a big hand.

9a(1) : a player in a card game or board game

(2) : the cards or pieces held by a player studied her hand

b : a single round in a game lost the first hand but won the next two

c : the force or solidity of one's position (as in negotiations) trying to strengthen their hand

10a : a person who performs or executes a particular work two portraits by the same hand

b(1) : a person employed at manual labor or general tasks a ranch hand

(2) : worker, employee employed over a hundred hands

c : a member of a ship's crew all hands on deck

d : a person skilled in a particular action or pursuit a great hand at carpentry

e : a specialist or veteran in a usually designated activity or region a Latin America hand

11a : handiwork, doings the hand of vandals

b : style of execution : workmanship the hand of a master

c : the feel of or tactile reaction to something (such as silk or leather)

12 : a punch made with a specified hand knocked him out with a good right hand

at hand

1 : near in time or place : within reach use whatever ingredients are at hand

2 : currently receiving or deserving attention the business at hand

at the hands of or less commonly at the hand of

: by or through the action of suffering at the hands of a cruel dictator

by hand

1 : with the hands or a hand-worked implement (such as a tool or pen) rather than with a machine

2 : from one individual directly to another deliver the document by hand

in hand

1 : in one's possession or control had matters well in hand with money in hand

2 : in preparation a new play in hand

3 : under consideration took the matter in hand

on all hands or on every hand

: everywhere could hear scurrying noises on all hands

on hand

1 : in present possession or readily available kept supplies on hand

2 : about to appear : pending There was trouble on hand.

3 : in attendance : present A priest was on hand to console them.

on one's hands

: in one's possession or care too much time on my hands

out of hand

1 : without delay or deliberation also : in a summary or peremptory manner rejected the plan out of hand

2 : done with : finished

3 : out of control They let the situation get out of hand.

4 : with the hands fruit eaten out of hand

to hand

1 : into possession the letter … has come to hand —George Washington

2 : within reach weapons ready to hand



Definition of hand (Entry 2 of 4)

: with the hands rather than by machine hand stitched


handed; handing; hands

Definition of hand (Entry 3 of 4)

transitive verb

1a obsolete : to touch or manage with the hands also : to deal with

b : furl hand the sail

2 : to lead, guide, or assist with the hand hand a lady into a bus

3a : to give, pass, or transmit with the hand hand a letter to her

b : to present or provide with handed him a surprise

hand it to

: to give credit to : concede the excellence of I have to hand it to him. He did a wonderful job.


biographical name
\ ˈhand \

Definition of Hand (Entry 4 of 4)

(Billings) Learned 1872–1961 American jurist

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Examples of hand in a Sentence


These gloves will keep your hands warm. She put her hands over her eyes. He sat quietly with his hands folded in his lap. Do you need a hand?


was happy to hand her grandmother's cookie recipes to the parish ladies to put in their cookbook the clerk handed her the receipt
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

And with House Speaker Paul Ryan’s hand-off approach, the buck here stops with him. Chuck Todd, NBC News, "Worst fears realized in Trump's overseas trip — and it's not over yet," 13 July 2018 And the group’s total cash on hand dwarfs that of its counterpart on the other side of the aisle, the House Majority PAC. Alana Abramson, Time, "This Republican Super PAC Raised $51 Million to Try and Save the Party's House Majority," 12 July 2018 Growing up with a hands-on mother like Diana has shaped his own parenting style. Simon Perry, PEOPLE.com, "How Prince William Is Creating the Same ‘Loving, Caring, Fun Home’ as His Mom Princess Diana," 13 July 2018 Divide the mixture into six 6-ounce portions and, with a light hand, gently form the portions into patties roughly 4 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick. Adam Ried, BostonGlobe.com, "Recipes: Switch it up with lamb burgers instead of beef," 13 July 2018 Lloris on the other hand, like all the other keepers who reached the semifinals here—Thibaut Courtois of Belgium, Jordan Pickford of England and Danijel Subasic of Croatia—has an average position essentially in his own six-yard box. Joshua Robinson, WSJ, "France to Hugo Lloris: Get Back in Goal," 13 July 2018 The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse was constructed 30 years ago by hand (as in no power tools) in Boulder's sister city, Dushanbe, Tajikistan, before it was disassembled, shipped and rebuilt here. Melanie D.g. Kaplan, chicagotribune.com, "Boulder, Colorado, does things its own way," 12 July 2018 Throughout his two-day camp, Victor Oladipo and coaches will offer tips and hands-on instruction, including lectures, fundamental basketball skills stations, contests, and games in a high-energy, fun, and positive environment. Indianapolis Star, "Attend Victor Oladipo Youth Basketball ProCamp," 12 July 2018 The change is aimed at increasing the inclusiveness of the Navy, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said in a Facebook live all-hands call. Joel Shannon, USA TODAY, "Navy to allow women to wear their hair in ponytails, locks and other styles," 12 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

The chief pollinators of the lettuce garden that the farming pioneer Frank Bienkowski planted more than 200 years ago, the bees go hand-in-hand with the fresh produce offered on the menu throughout the summer season. Discover Magazine, "One-on-One with Executive Chef Kevin Erving," 6 July 2018 Gulluni said although investigators had been hand-digging through areas of the property Friday morning, no other remains have been recovered. Jerome Campbell, Travis Andersen, BostonGlobe.com, "Police discover three bodies at Springfield home," 1 June 2018 The intelligence community's credibility just got a big boost, too An effort to undermine the broader intelligence community goes hand-in-hand with Trump and his allies' assessment that Russia was indifferent about who became president. Amber Phillips, Washington Post, "The Russia report Trump likes best just took a big credibility hit," 16 May 2018 Belmont Books, which opened in June 2017, plays host to local authors hand-selling their own favorites, as well as scavenger hunts, tours, and more. BostonGlobe.com, "Five things to do the week of April 23-29," 20 Apr. 2018 The former director of admissions and vice provost who hand-delivered the acceptance letter for his son during a football game. Mark Zeigler, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Is the day nearing when Michigan will properly acknowledge Steve Fisher?," 1 Apr. 2018 The Braves' successes go hand-in-hand with the Phillies' failures. Si.com Staff, SI.com, "Nine Innings: Blowing Up Small Sample Sizes, Heroic Homer Feats and Establishing an All-MLB Team," 2 Apr. 2018 Sarah Lee, Co-founder of Glow Recipe explains that she’s even seen workers hand-fold sheet masks with tools on a completely sterile assembly line (after going through a decontamination shower), of course. Kathleen Hou, The Cut, "What’s in Your Sheet Mask?," 28 Mar. 2018 While the rest of the world grappled with the truth that there was trouble in their billion-dollar paradise, Beyoncé and Jay-Z welcomed a set of new twins and graced industry events hand-in-hand throughout 2017. refinery29.com, "I Hope OTRII Is The Last Joint Tour From Beyoncé & Jay-Z," 12 Mar. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The concern among critics is that Trump is handing large stretches of public land to oil and gas companies for a decade or more. Zack Colman, Scientific American, "A Trump Oil Boom Could Transform This Rocky Mountain Landscape," 13 July 2018 The radio station shared a video of the morning show hosts handing Billy an envelope containing the meet and greet passes. Southern Living, "This Reba McEntire Fan’s Reaction to Winning Meet and Greet Passes Will Warm Your Heart, Guaranteed," 27 June 2018 In the aftermath, hundreds of fans crowded the stage, eager for a chance to hand Ninja, Lil Yachty, and other famous faces their phone to take selfies with. Nick Statt, The Verge, "Fortnite’s celebrity tournament felt like a trial run for Epic’s grand e-sports ambitions," 17 June 2018 This was Colbert handing two serial self-promoters just enough rope to do his work for him. Laura Bradley, HWD, "Avenatti and Scaramucci Peddle Their Unholy Double Act on Late Show," 14 June 2018 No weapon was displayed during the robbery at 10 a.m. at the bank in Jewel-Osco, 1202 State Street, but the male handed a note to the teller, Sgt. Susan Demar Lafferty, Daily Southtown, "TCF Bank robbed in Lemont, police say," 14 June 2018 Officers responded to the bank at 10:59 a.m. after an unidentified male handed a teller a note demanding money, according to Meridian Police Department press release. Christina Lords, idahostatesman, "Police need your help identifying this man who they say robbed Meridian bank," 11 June 2018 Cut off a knob and hand it to a child with a slice of cheddar to stave off hangriness. Alex Van Buren, Health.com, "Making No-Knead Bread Is So Much Easier Than You Think—and You’ll Use It in Meals All Week Long," 23 May 2018 Remains and indelible parts, such as egg shells and bones, are turned into compost that is handed back to the farmers. Umberto Bacchi, The Christian Science Monitor, "British chefs cook up food waste solutions," 22 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'hand.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of hand


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for hand


Middle English, from Old English; akin to Old High German hant hand


see hand entry 1


see hand entry 1

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Dictionary Entries near hand






hand's turn


Statistics for hand

Last Updated

25 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for hand

The first known use of hand was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for hand



English Language Learners Definition of hand

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the body part at the end of your arm that includes your fingers and thumb

—used in some phrases to refer to a person

hands : power, possession, or control



English Language Learners Definition of hand (Entry 2 of 2)

: to give (something) to someone using your hands


\ ˈhand \

Kids Definition of hand

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the body part at the end of the human arm that includes the fingers and thumb

2 : a bodily structure (as the hind foot of an ape) like the human hand in function or form

3 : a pointer on a clock or watch

4 : help entry 2 sense 1, assistance I gave her a hand loading the truck.

5 : control entry 2 sense 1 The fort is in the hands of the enemy.

6 : one side of a problem On the one hand we could stay. On the other hand we could go.

7 : an outburst of applause Give them a hand.

8 : the cards held by a player in a card game

9 : a hired worker : laborer

10 : a promise of marriage

12 : ability sense 1 I tried my hand at painting.

13 : a unit of measure equal to four inches (about ten centimeters) The horse is 15 hands high.

14 : a part or share in doing something She had a hand in the crime.

at hand

: near in time or place The hour is at hand.

by hand

: without the use of automation : using the hands The stone was carved by hand.

in hand

: in someone's possession or control Map in hand, he's ready to go. I've got the situation well in hand.

on hand

1 : available for use Keep some extra batteries on hand.

2 : present entry 3 sense 2 Please be on hand when the guests arrive.

out of hand

: out of control The party got out of hand.


handed; handing

Kids Definition of hand (Entry 2 of 2)

: to give or pass with the hand Please hand me the knife.


noun, often attributive
\ ˈhand \

Medical Definition of hand 

1a(1) : the terminal part of the vertebrate forelimb when modified (as in humans) as a grasping organ

(2) : the forelimb segment (as the terminal section of a bird's wing) of a vertebrate higher than the fishes that corresponds to the hand irrespective of its form or functional specialization

b : a part serving the function of or resembling a hand especially : the hind foot of an ape

c : something resembling a hand especially : an indicator or pointer on a dial

2 : a unit of measure equal to 4 inches or 10.2 centimeters used especially for the height of horses

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Comments on hand

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


to deposit or conceal in a hiding place

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