noun, often attributive
\ ˈhand How to pronounce hand (audio) \

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 : 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
c : 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
2a : personal possession usually used in pluralThe documents fell into the hands of the enemy.
b : control, supervision usually used in pluralleft the matter in her hands
3a : 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.
b : side, direction soldiers fighting on either hand
4a : 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.
5a : skill, ability tried her hand at sailing
b : an instrumental part had a hand in the victory
6 : a pledge especially of betrothal or bestowal in marriage He asked for her hand in marriage.
7a(1) : the cards or pieces held by a player studied her hand
(2) : a player in a card game or board game
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
8a(1) : a person employed at manual labor or general tasks a ranch hand
(2) : worker, employee employed over a hundred hands
b : a member of a ship's crew All hands on deck!
c : a person who performs or executes a particular work two portraits by the same hand
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
9a : style of execution : workmanship the hand of a master
b : handiwork, doings the hand of vandals
c : the feel of or tactile reaction to something (such as silk or leather)
10a : style of penmanship : handwriting wrote in a fancy hand
11 : 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
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 : in attendance : present A priest was on hand to console them.
3 : about to appear : pending There was trouble on hand.
on one's hands
: in one's possession or care too much time on my hands
out of hand
1 : out of control They let the situation get out of hand.
2 : without delay or deliberation also : in a summary or peremptory manner rejected the plan out of hand
3 : done with : finished
4 : with the hands fruit eaten out of hand
to hand
1 : within reach weapons ready to hand
2 : into possession The letter … has come to hand— George Washington


handed; handing; hands

Definition of hand (Entry 2 of 4)

transitive verb

1a : to give, pass, or transmit with the hand hand a letter to her
b : to present or provide with handed him a surprise
2 : to lead, guide, or assist with the hand hand a lady into a bus
3a : furl hand the sail
b obsolete : to touch or manage with the hands also : to deal with
hand it to
: to give credit to : concede the excellence of I have to hand it to him. He did a wonderful job.



Definition of hand (Entry 3 of 4)

: with the hands rather than by machine hand stitched


biographical name
\ ˈhand How to pronounce Hand (audio) \

Definition of Hand (Entry 4 of 4)

(Billings) Learned 1872–1961 American jurist

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Synonyms & Antonyms for hand

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Verb

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Examples of hand in a Sentence

Noun 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? Verb 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 There’s a temperature scanner in the lobby, hand sanitizer and masks at reception, and everyone in the office checks their temperature twice daily and records the numbers in case a health inspector swings by. Naomi Xu Elegant, Fortune, "Inside China’s reopening: A Shanghai consultant eschews a contact-tracing app," 4 May 2020 Grocery stores have had a hard time keeping up with the demand for various products over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, with things like hand sanitizer, toilet paper, flour, and yeast disappearing off shelves as soon as they’re stocked. Lisa Milbrand, Better Homes & Gardens, "4 Unexpected Places to Buy Meat Beyond Your Local Grocery Store," 4 May 2020 The company also sells meals-to-go (like complex soups loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants from vegetables), produce boxes and plant-based, anti-viral, antibacteria hand sanitizers. oregonlive, "Last-minute Mother’s Day gifts: Deliver brunch, bundle a bouquet, make something sweet," 3 May 2020 As SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, began to grow into a pandemic, many scientists realized that remdesivir might be the best solution at hand. Gina Kolata, BostonGlobe.com, "How remdesivir, new hope for coronavirus patients, was resurrected," 2 May 2020 All of which was completely inadequate for the challenges at hand. Jeff Spross, TheWeek, "Shouldn't Congress be considered essential?," 2 May 2020 Courtesy of Arissa Hall / Photographed by Alvin McBean Though this pandemic sheds a light on the grim conditions within Rikers, the broader issue at hand has plagued jails for decades. Bria Mcneal, refinery29.com, "Coronavirus Has Made These Black Women’s Fight Against Cash Bail Even More Serious," 30 Apr. 2020 Start with their Classic Happy Planners (prices vary), which are 18-month planners that have a vertical layout and contain monthly dividers to ensure the week's activities and important tasks are always at hand. Jean Chen Smith, Cincinnati.com, "Mother’s Day Gift Guide: Stay-at-home edition," 30 Apr. 2020 Other things may already be at hand, like pencil and paper, a wall free of photos or hanging items and a plastic cup. Jon Arnold, Dallas News, "Mesquite gym teachers are planning a virtual field day," 29 Apr. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Bored rich people wandered the aisles of Anthropologie and Crate & Barrel, pawing at the wares, some with no masks or hand sanitizer in sight. Libby Watson, The New Republic, "The Deranged Civic Religion of the Lockdown Protesters," 18 May 2020 Her brother waited a few paces away and handed her a diploma while her mother filmed the mini-ceremony. Rachel Leingang, azcentral, "Amid pandemic, traditional college graduations replaced with new ways to mark occasion," 15 May 2020 Buffets, salad bars and bar seating are not permitted, and hand sanitizer must be available for all staff and patrons. Ted O'neil, Washington Examiner, "Some counties in Washington state move to Phase 2 of reopening," 13 May 2020 Efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus around the United States have led to protective measures like social distancing, touch tools, face masks, and hand sanitizer. Braelyn Wood, Health.com, "Sneeze Guards Are Trending Right Now—Here’s Where to Buy Your Own," 13 May 2020 For his paperwork, the receptionist handed him a pen after wiping it down with a Lysol wipe. Kristen Rogers, CNN, "Getting to the doctor during a pandemic," 8 May 2020 A week later, a FedEx guy knocks on my door and hands me an envelope. Cheryl Hall, Dallas News, "‘Near billionaire’ successfully switches lanes," 19 Apr. 2020 Officers have already caught more than a dozen (link in Chinese) quarantine offenders this way, and handed them hefty fines. Mary Hui, Quartz, "How Taiwan is tracking 55,000 people under home quarantine in real time," 31 Mar. 2020 A few weeks ago, David Perez’s brother handed him a package of face masks and warnings about a new coronavirus spreading around the United States. Arielle Pardes, Wired, "Amid Social Distancing, Neighbors Mobilize Over Facebook," 14 Mar. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb And putting money in people’s pockets goes hand-in-hand with social distancing policies, by defraying some of the costs of closing non-essential businesses, which in turn threatens the reliable paychecks of thousands of workers. Ben Adler, The New Republic, "Bailouts Won’t Save the Economy. More Coronavirus Tests Will.," 13 Apr. 2020 The two phenomena go hand-in-hand: The Arctic Oscillation is positive because the polar vortex is strong. Doyle Rice, USA TODAY, "What happened to winter? And where's the polar vortex?," 19 Feb. 2020 The developments come a day after the managers hand-delivered the articles of impeachment, adopted by the House in December, to the Senate after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., signed them in a historic engrossment ceremony. NBC News, "Schiff reads articles of impeachment against Trump on Senate floor," 16 Jan. 2020 One shop sold stuffed toys made to look hand-woven, as if a wry old local was out back sewing Ewok dolls. BostonGlobe.com, "I recently had an early look at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Orlando. Here are five interstellar takeaways.," 13 Sep. 2019 His vision is carried on by three generations of his family who hand-pick grapes to make homemade wine. Verna Gates, al, "How to spend 24 hours on the North Alabama Wine Trail," 19 Sep. 2019 Food that’s healthy for people and healthy for the environment go hand-in-hand. Anne Schamberg, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Small organic farm aims to stay a step ahead of extreme weather events," 8 Oct. 2019 For the next election, all of L.A. County will be ditching the previous system where voters hand-marked ballots for a system where computers will aid in the marking process. Lila Seidman, Glendale News-Press, "Countywide voting changes coming in 2020," 3 Oct. 2019 Half the fun is perusing the lengthy cocktail list, designed to look hand-scrawled and presented in a small binder. Paul Hodgins, Daily Pilot, "Adult Beverages: SOCIAL’s new Huntington Beach spot is a cocktail paradise," 25 Sep. 2019

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)


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3b


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for hand

Noun, Verb, and Adverb

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

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Time Traveler for hand

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for hand

Last Updated

7 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Hand.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hand. Accessed 3 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for hand


How to pronounce Hand (audio)

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
: power, possession, or control



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

: to give (something) to someone using your hands


\ ˈhand How to pronounce hand (audio) \

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 How to pronounce hand (audio) \

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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More from Merriam-Webster on hand

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for hand

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with hand

Spanish Central: Translation of hand

Nglish: Translation of hand for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of hand for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about hand

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