hand·​cuff | \ ˈhan(d)-ˌkəf How to pronounce handcuff (audio) \

Definition of handcuff

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a metal fastening that can be locked around a wrist and is usually connected by a chain or bar with another such fastening usually used in plural


handcuffed; handcuffing; handcuffs

Definition of handcuff (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to apply handcuffs to : manacle
2 : to hold in check : make ineffective or powerless handcuffed by strict regulations

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Synonyms & Antonyms for handcuff

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Verb

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Examples of handcuff in a Sentence

Noun the man reluctantly held out his wrists so the policeman could snap on handcuffs Verb wanted to take the trip, but was handcuffed by her responsibility to watch her ailing father the fear that the new mandatory, standardized tests will handcuff the state's teachers, who will have to specifically tailor their lesson plans for the test
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Eppler inherited a major league team that had been eliminated from the playoffs on the final day of the 2015 season, and some organizational handcuffs. Bill Shaikin, Los Angeles Times, "Column: GM Billy Eppler has one year to turn Angels into a winner after four losing ones," 7 Sep. 2019 Wearing an orange detainee shirt and handcuffs, Talbot, 43, was presented to reporters in Manila on Thursday. Washington Post, "Utah woman arrested at Manila airport with newborn in bag," 6 Sep. 2019 Who to sit: Rookie running back Darrell Henderson (LAR) is a handcuff at this point. Eddie Brown, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Fantasy Football Week 1: Start and Sit," 5 Sep. 2019 Malcolm Brown, Los Angeles Rams Brown isn't getting much attention as a valuable handcuff. Adam Ronis, SI.com, "Fantasy Football 2019: Week 1 Waiver Wire Pickups," 3 Sep. 2019 It is displayed behind glass with his original hat, tie and handcuffs. New York Times, "James R. Leavelle, Detective at Lee Harvey Oswald’s Side, Dies at 99," 29 Aug. 2019 Images shared online of the two Galveston police officers leading Donald Neely using a rope tied to his handcuffs — reminiscent of pictures showing slaves in chains — sparked public outrage. Washington Post, "Activists seek police video of black man arrested, tethered," 18 Sep. 2019 The Galveston officers, who were identified as P. Brosch and A. Smith, were seen riding horseback August 3 while leading 43-year-old Donald Neely by a rope clipped to his handcuffs. Jason Silverstein, CBS News, "Texas cops who led black man by rope on horseback won't face criminal investigation," 18 Aug. 2019 A month later, an undocumented man said that Bowen had dragged him around by his handcuffs, causing painful abrasions to his wrists. A.c. Thompson, ProPublica, "“Dirtbag,” “Savages,” “Subhuman”: A Border Agent’s Hateful Career and the Crime That Finally Ended It," 16 Aug. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Illinois’ child welfare agency is investigating why two teenagers in its custody were handcuffed and shackled at their feet while being driven from one youth shelter to another living arrangement, authorities confirmed Thursday. Elyssa Cherney, chicagotribune.com, "2 teens were handcuffed, shackled during drive from a youth shelter: ‘Totally unacceptable,’ DCFS says," 7 Nov. 2019 Because a deputy smelled the odor of marijuana, all three players were asked to step out and were handcuffed and questioned separately. Tom Silverstein, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Packers pass rusher Za'Darius Smith ticketed for marijuana in car," 1 Nov. 2019 One person was seen being handcuffed and taken away to a police van. Kelvin Chan, The Denver Post, "Hong Kong descends into chaos again as protesters defy ban," 20 Oct. 2019 She has been arrested and handcuffed and detained in jail, all because since 1981 Iran has barred women from attending soccer matches. Tariq Panja, New York Times, "An Iranian Soccer Fan’s Dream Comes True Without Her," 10 Oct. 2019 Somerville was found guilty of criminal contempt during a Sept. 20 hearing and was immediately handcuffed and taken into custody — spending the next 10 days in jail until his Sept. 29 release. Gina Martinez, Time, "After National Outcry, Florida Judge Clears Record of Man Who Served 10 Days in Jail for Missing Jury Duty," 8 Oct. 2019 Screen shot from video released by the district attorney shows Earl McNeil handcuffed and restrained by The Wrap, a device police departments across the country are using to restrain subjects. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Review board investigation concludes deputy violated policy in Earl McNeil death," 4 Oct. 2019 The school resource officer — Officer Dennis Turner, of the Orlando Police Department — handcuffed Kaia and transported her to the Juvenile Assessment Center in Orlando on a battery charge. Fox News, "Florida girl, 6, arrested for battery by school resource officer for temper tantrum: report," 23 Sep. 2019 After catching Hodge, officers handcuffed him and placed him in leg shackles, according to his attorney, Ivan Bates. Jessica Anderson, baltimoresun.com, "Baltimore police handle marijuana suspects differently under consent decree, recent court ruling," 10 Sep. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'handcuff.' 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 handcuff


1649, in the meaning defined above


1649, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for handcuff

Last Updated

27 Oct 2019

Time Traveler for handcuff

The first known use of handcuff was in 1649

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More Definitions for handcuff



English Language Learners Definition of handcuff

: to put handcuffs on (someone)


hand·​cuff | \ ˈhand-ˌkəf How to pronounce handcuff (audio) \

Kids Definition of handcuff

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a metal ring that can be locked around a person's wrist usually used in pl.


handcuffed; handcuffing

Kids Definition of handcuff (Entry 2 of 2)

: to put handcuffs on

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Comments on handcuff

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


a calculated move

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