There are so many fun phrases involving the word “hand” that I decided it was time to share some. =) I remember several years ago looking up “to know something like the back of one’s hand.” I had a hard time finding it but eventually discovered that it’s from the 1900s, which surprised me. So I had to take that out of the Victorian story . . .

But there are lots of “hand” phrases from way back in the day. It’s had the meaning of “worker” (as in, someone who uses their hands) since the 1580s, and a hired worker since the 1630s. The clock and watch sense is from 1570s.

Yet we didn’t give someone a hand, as in a a round of applause, until 1838.

It was used for the playing cards one person held, and a round in a card game, since 1620.

First hand and second hand information is from the 15th century, following the idea of literally handing information over. On the one hand . . . on the other hand followed by the 1600s, with a notion of weighing something in your hand, or holding two separate things.

Winning something hands down, though, is from the 1830s and is thanks to horse racing–jockeys would release the reins after an easy victory, you see.

Yep, you’ve got to hand it to the word hand (c. 1906 on that one, LOL)–it sure gets around!

On a side note, my first newsletter went out on Friday. If you missed it, you can view it here. And to be sure not to miss it in the future, sign up on my website!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email