John Hancock

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A 1765 portrait of John Hancock (detail) by John Singleton Copley, collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
John Hancock’s signature


Named for American merchant and statesman John Hancock (1737–1793), the first person to sign the United States Declaration of Independence. According to legend, he signed his name prominently to be sure George III could read it, causing his name to become an eponym for a signature. However, other examples show that Hancock always wrote his signature this way.



John Hancock ‎(plural John Hancocks)

  1. (idiomatic) A signature.
    Please put your John Hancock on the dotted line to close the deal.
    • 1879, Bates Harrington, How 'tis Done: A Thorough Ventilation of the Numerous Schemes Conducted by Wandering Canvassers, together with the Various Advertising Dodges for the Swindling of the Public, Chicago, Ill.: Fidelity Pub. Co., OCLC 77314010, page 63:
      The man is pressed for his "John Hancock" with all the persuasiveness and eloquence of a practiced operator on masculine vanity.
    • 1996, Space Jam, Burbank, Calif.: Warner Home Video, ISBN 978-0-7907-2935-0, 30:38 from the start:
      Can I have your auto—your John Hancock, please?
    • 2005, Dary Matera, John Dillinger: The Life and Death of America's First Celebrity Criminal, trade paperback edition, New York, N.Y.: Carroll & Graf Publishers, ISBN 978-0-7867-1558-9, page 36:
      Audrey and crew even squeezed frail grocer Frank Morgan, the victim, into adding his John Hancock to the parole petition. The cherry was getting Hanging Judge Joe Williams to sign on as well.
    • 2013 June 18, Zachary A. Goldfarb, “Treasury Secretary Jack Lew unveils new signature after quibbles with his scribble”, in The Washington Post[1]:
      [Jack] Lew is not the first Treasury secretary to change his John Hancock upon arrival at 1500 Pennsylvania Ave.

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