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Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English, from Old English handful (handful), from Proto-Germanic *handfullą, *handfullō, *handfulljô (handful), from Proto-Germanic *handuz (hand), *fullaz (full), equivalent to hand +‎ full (fullness, plenty). Cognate with West Frisian hânfol (handful), Dutch handvol (handful), Danish håndfuld (handful), Swedish handfull (handful), Icelandic handfylli (handful).



handful (plural handfuls or handsful)

  1. The amount that a hand will grasp or contain.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Joseph Addison to this entry?)
  2. (obsolete) A hand's breadth; four inches.
    Knap the tongs together about a handful from the bottom. - Francis Bacon
  3. A small quantity, usually approximately equal to five.
    This handful of men were tied to very hard duty. - Fuller
  4. Something which can only be managed with difficulty.
    Those twins are a real handful to look after.


Derived terms[edit]

  • To have one's handful: (Obsolete): to have one's hands full; to have all one can do.
    They had their handful to defend themselves from firing. - Sir Walter Raleigh

Related terms[edit]


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