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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 Saterland Frisian Hondful ‎(handful), West Frisian hânfol ‎(handful), Dutch handvol ‎(handful), Danish håndfuld ‎(handful), Swedish handfull ‎(handful), Icelandic handfylli ‎(handful).


  • (file)
  • IPA(key): /ˈhæn(d)fʊl/, /ˈhæn(d)f(ə)l/


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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