Do you know all these expressions about hands? Most of them are cliches, but using just about any cliche is forgivable if you do so in a fresh way, or to add a note of humor.
1. “All hands on deck,” from the traditional nautical command for every sailor to report for duty, refers to the necessity of everyone involved to lend a hand, or assist.
2. To bite the hand that feeds you is to be hostile to someone who has been kind to you.
3. To be a dab hand is, in British English, to be an expert.
4. “The devil makes work for idle hands” is a proverb that means that inactive people are susceptible to the temptation to do wrong.
5. To know something firsthand is to be directly familiar with the facts.
6. To force someone’s hand is to compel them to act prematurely or involuntarily.
7. Having a free hand is being given wide latitude about how to carry out a task or responsibility.
8. To gain the upper hand is to obtain control.
9. To get your hands dirty is to engage in a important activity that may not be pleasant.
10. To give a hand is to help, though it also refers to applauding by clapping one’s hands.
11. To give a guiding hand is to offer advice or mentorship.
12. Something that goes hand in hand with something else is closely associated with it.
13. To be in good, or safe, hands is to be assured that you will be taken care of.
14. To hand something down is to offer it to an heir, or to deliver a decision.
15. To hand in something is to deliver it.
16. To work hand in glove is to work together intimately.
17. To hand something off is to pass it along to someone else, with the connotation of delegating it.
18. To hand something on is to pass it along to someone else in succession.
19. To hand something out is to offer it to recipients.
20. To hand something over is to deliver it to someone in authority, perhaps reluctantly or unwillingly.
21. To earn money hand over fist is to do so quickly.
22. To hand something to somebody on a platter (often a silver one) is to enable them to achieve something without effort.
23. To hand something up is to present it to a higher authority, such as grand jury to a judge.
24. To win hands down is to do so conclusively.
25. To be hands-off is to distance oneself from an activity or project.
26. To be hands-on is to directly involve oneself in an activity or project.
27. To have blood on one’s hands is to be culpable for an act.
28. When you tell someone you have to hand it to them, you’re giving them a compliment.
29. To have your hands full is to be busy.
30. To act with a heavy hand is to do so harshly or with too much force.
31. A heavy-handed gesture or action is one that is lacking in subtlety.
32. When the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, it means that communication among associates is poor.
33. To lend a hand is to assist.
34. To know something like the back of one’s hand is to know it thoroughly.
35. To live from hand to mouth is to be poor.
36. To be an old hand is to be familiar with or to be an expert at something.
37. To say that something is on hand is to indicate that it is available.
38. “On the other hand” is a synonym for however or “by contrast.”
39. To overplay your hand is to try too hard to achieve an objective, resulting in failure or complication.
40. Something that gets out of hand has gone out of control.
41. To play into someone’s hands is to be manipulated by an opponent into doing something advantageous to that person and detrimental to yourself.
42. “Put your hands up” is a command by law enforcement personnel directing someone to raise their hands so that they are in clear view and not likely to reach for a weapon.
43. To raise one’s hand is to lift an arm to indicate that one wishes to volunteer to perform a task or respond to a question.
44. A show of hands is a display of raised hands by those in a group in favor of or opposed to a proposal.
45. To take someone by the hand is to lead or nurture them.
46. To take the law into your own hands is to seek to right or avenge a wrong yourself rather than appeal to law enforcement for assistance.
47. To throw your hands up is to figuratively acknowledge defeat or frustration.
48. To be underhanded is to be deceitful.
49. To wash your hands of something is to absolve yourself of responsibility.
50. To say “When one hand washes the other” (the implied conclusion to the phrase is “and together they wash the face”) is to suggest that cooperation encourages success.