hand·ful | \ˈhan(d)-ˌfu̇l \
plural handfuls\ˈhan(d)-ˌfu̇lz \ also handsful\ˈhan(d)z-ˌfu̇l \

Definition of handful 

1 : as much or as many as the hand will grasp

2 : a small quantity or number a handful of people

3 : as much as one can manage the kids are quite a handful

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Examples of handful in a Sentence

The children collected seashells by the handful. Our dog is a real handful.

Recent Examples on the Web

There are only a handful in metro Atlanta, and the company’s website shows that this is now the only one in Cobb. Ben Brasch, ajc, "The only Hungry Howie’s pizza joint in Cobb has opened," 11 July 2018 By fall, the nomination may turn on a handful of senators who will be under enormous pressure ahead of the midterm elections. Lisa Mascaro, The Seattle Times, "Emotions high as Kavanaugh begins fight for confirmation," 10 July 2018 But only a handful of companies, such as Rakuten, an e-commerce giant, work in English. The Economist, "Japan is finally starting to admit more foreign workers," 5 July 2018 Just a handful of bored young Russians serving warm Bud at $5.57 a pop. Steven Shundich, Cincinnati.com, "World Cup 2018: Dispatches from TML Mobster/Guest Hemingway in Russia, Episode 2," 4 July 2018 The handful of delicates worn before the festivities begin—silk robes, chemises, camis, and so forth—also fall into this category. Glamour, "How to Shop for Bridal Lingerie That Feels Cool, Not Corny," 29 June 2018 The idea is to create a football-focused destination that will attract fans year-round, not just on a handful of Sundays. Steve Harrison, charlotteobserver, "NFL teams are building state-of-the-art practice palaces. Is 'Panthers Park' coming?," 28 June 2018 Multiple sclerosis comes in a handful of different forms, depending on its severity. Aaron Gilbreath, Longreads, "The Inward Empire," 27 June 2018 As of late last week, nearly 200 have taken the offer up to date, although only a handful — less than a dozen — have been evacuated to the U.S. for further review by neurological experts at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Josh Lederman And Matthew Lee, chicagotribune.com, "Singapore scare highlights U.S. anxiety over mystery injuries," 26 June 2018

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

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

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Statistics for handful

Last Updated

4 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for handful

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

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More Definitions for handful



English Language Learners Definition of handful

: an amount that you can hold in your hand

: a small amount or number

: someone or something that is difficult to control


hand·ful | \ˈhand-ˌfu̇l \
plural handfuls\-ˌfu̇lz \ or handsful\ˈhandz-ˌfu̇l \

Kids Definition of handful

1 : as much or as many as the hand will grasp

2 : a small amount or number Only a handful of people came.

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