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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English handel, handle, from Old English handle ‎(a handle), from handlian ‎(to handle, feel, deal with, discuss). See verb below. Cognate with Danish handel ‎(a handle).


handle ‎(plural handles)

  1. The part of an object which is (designed to be) held in the hand when used or moved.
    • 1854, John Hovey Robinson, Silver-knife: or, The hunters of the Rocky Mountains[1], page 133:
      Once his fingers strayed to the handle of his hunting-knife, and I should have interfered had I not been conscious that Wickliffe was on his guard.
    • 1902, “Atomic Weight of Lanthanum”, in Journal of the Chemical Society[2], volume 81, part 2:
      By pushing the fork downwards so that its teeth pass the handle of the stopper, and then turning the cover of the dessicator 90°, the handle of the stopper falls into the furrows and rests upon them.
    • 1905, “Origin of the Respiratory Sounds”, in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London[3], volume 37:
      By keeping the handle of the bellows fixed in any given position the lung within the chamber could be kept for a short time at any desired degree of distension, and by pressing at intervals upon the bag, air could be forced to and fro between the bad and the lung outside the chamber, without distending the air within it.
  2. An instrument for effecting a purpose (either literally or figuratively); a tool.
    • South, Sermons:
      They overturned him to all his interests by the sure but fatal handle of his own good nature.
    • 1894, Robert Needham Cust, Essay on the prevailing methods of the evangelization of the non-Christian world[4], page 70:
      Nothing can be more reprehensible, or wicked, than to make Christian Missions a handle for political expansion.
    • 1978, William Hay Taliaferro, John Herbert Humphrey, Advances in immunology[5], page 224:
      Many investigators feel that the double requirement for the antigen-recognition by cytotoxic T cells or DTH-reactive T cells may provide a handle for solving the T-cell receptor puzzle, and that anti-Id reagents are to be used in this approach.
    • 1997, Allen S. Johnson, A prologue to revolution: the political career of George Grenville[6], ISBN 9780761806004, page 95:
      Indeed, at the beginning of the session he was careful to make "no declarations of what might hereafter be measures, so as to give anybody a handle for fixing him down to any particular system."
  3. (gambling) The gross amount of wagering within a given period of time or for a given event at one of more establishments.
    • 2001, William Norman Thompson, Gambling in America: an encyclopedia of history, issues, and society[7], ISBN 9781576071595, page 421:
      For a casino table game,the handle is difficult to determine, as it consists of all the bets made in every game, whether by chip or by cash play.
    • 2001, Harold L. Vogel, Travel industry economics: a guide for financial analysis[8], ISBN 9780521781633, page 139:
      Note here, however, that the casino's "edge" (its expected value per unit bet, or, in casino jargon, the house p.c.) in table games is expressed as a percentage of the handle and not as a percentage of the drop (even though these might sometimes be the same).
    • 2007, Douglas M. Walker, The economics of casino gambling[9], ISBN 9783540351023, page 77:
      The results for the dog racing model indicate that increases in lottery sales and decreases in horse racing handle and casino revenues in the state in question statistically increase dog racing handle.
    The daily handle of a Las Vegas casino is typically millions of dollars.
  4. (textiles) The tactile qualities of a fabric, e.g., softness, firmness, elasticity, fineness, resilience, and other qualities perceived by touch.
  5. (slang) A name, nickname or pseudonym.
    • 1997, Jack Canfield, Hanoch McCarty, A 4th course of chicken soup for the soul[10], ISBN 9781558744592, page 312:
      We sat together at the restaurant and asked him about his handle (CB name).
    • 2001, Stephen King, Peter Straub, The Talisman[11], ISBN 9780375507779:
      This was so unexpected that Jack came close to gabbling out his real name instead of the one he had used at the Golden Spoon, the name he also used if the people who picked him up asked for his handle.
    • 2007, Jon Evans, Invisible Armies[12], ISBN 9780312368678, page 253:
      "I don't actually know his birth name. He just uses his handle."
  6. (computing) A reference to an object or structure that can be stored in a variable.
    • 1989, Petrus Maria Gerardus Apers, Gio Wiederhold, Proceedings of the Fifteenth International Conference on Very Large Data[13], page 383:
      A handle for a type instance is similar to an open file descriptor; it is used to reference that type instance when performing operations on it.
    • 2008, Stephen J. Chapman, MATLAB programming for engineers[14], ISBN 9780495244493, page 354:
      By contrast, when a host function creates a handle for a nested function and returns that handle to a calling program, the host function's workspace is created and remains in existence for as long as the function handle remains in existence.
    This article describes how to find the module name from the window handle.
  7. (Australia, New Zealand) A 10 fl oz (285 ml) glass of beer in the Northern Territory. (See also pot and middy for other regional variations.)
    • 2002, Kate Duignan, Breakwater[15], Victoria University Press, ISBN 9780864734174, page 86:
      A shudder passes over him and he orders another handle of beer.
    • 2006, Rod Hylands, Lateral Connection[16], ISBN 9780476015296, page 68:
      Imagine staring into the heavens on a clear night and seeing a handle of beer floating amongst the stars, or an angel, or the face of a famous celebrity.
    • 2008, Stephanie E. Butler, Fodor's 2009 New Zealand[17], ISBN 9781400019526, page 571:
      When ordering a beer, you'll get either a handle (mug) or a one-liter jug (pitcher).
  8. (US) A half-gallon (1.75-liter) bottle of alcohol. (Called a sixty in Canada.)
    • 2014, Ray Stoeser, ‎Josh Cuffe, Bury My Body Down By the Highway Side, page 83:
      Josh bought a fifth of Evan Williams for Andrew as a token of gratitude and Ray, because of the financial constraints, purchased the cheapest handle of whiskey he could find: Heaven Hill.
  9. (geography, Newfoundland and Labrador, rare) A point, an extremity of land.
    the Handle of the Sug in Newfoundland
  10. (topology) A topological space homeomorphic to a ball but viewed as a product of two lower-dimensional balls.
    • 2003, Gordana Matić, Clint McCrory, Topology and geometry of manifolds[18], ISBN 9780821835074, page 182:
      Such a 2-handle cancels the 1-handle so the manifold is D4.
Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]


Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English handlen, from Old English handlian ‎(to handle, feel, deal with, discuss), from Proto-Germanic *handlōną ‎(to take, grip, feel), equivalent to hand +‎ -le. Cognate with West Frisian hanneljen, hanljen ‎(to handle, treat), Dutch handelen ‎(to handle, deal, act, negotiate), German handeln ‎(to act, trade, negotiate, behave), Swedish handla ‎(to buy, trade, deal), Icelandic höndla ‎(to handle).


handle ‎(third-person singular simple present handles, present participle handling, simple past and past participle handled)

  1. (transitive) To touch; to feel or hold with the hand(s).
    • Spenser, Sonnets:
      Happy, ye leaves! when as those lilly hands [...] Shall handle you.
    • Luke 24:39:
      Handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh.
    • John Milton:
      [...] about his altar, handling holy things
    • 1995, Adele Pillitteri, Pocket Guide for Maternal & Child Health Nursing, page 63:
      Encourage the client to handle her breasts to grow accustomed to touching them, thus enabling milk production in the first few days after birth.
    • 2011 February 12, Les Roopanarine, “Birmingham 1 - 0 Stoke”, in BBC[19]:
      Robert Huth handled a Bentley shot, only for the offence to go unnoticed.
  2. (transitive, rare) To accustom to the hand; to take care of with the hands.
    • W. Temple:
      The hardness of the winters forces the breeders to house and handle their colts six months every year.
  3. (transitive) To manage, use, or wield with the hands.
    • Shakespeare, King Lear, IV-vi:
      That fellow handles his bow like a crowkeeper
    • 1976, Mel Hallin Bolster, Crazy Snake and the Smoked Meat Rebellion, page 66:
      Light on his feet for a big man, he handled the rifle like a pistol.
  4. (transitive) To manage, control, or direct.
    • Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, V-i:
      You shall see how I'll handle her
    • 2011 December 16, Denis Campbell, “Hospital staff 'lack skills to cope with dementia patients'”, in Guardian[20]:
      The findings emerged from questionnaires filled in by 2,211 staff in 145 wards of 55 hospitals in England and Wales and 105 observations of care of dementia patients. Two-thirds of staff said they had not had enough training to provide proper care, 50% said they had not been trained how to communicate properly with such patients and 54% had not been told how to handle challenging or aggressive behaviour.
    • 2015, Nora Quick, Case of the Missing Millionaire:
      “You also handle the accounts for Julie Wojakowski, what about her? Any recent deposits in that amount?”
  5. (transitive) To treat, to deal with (in a specified way).
    • Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part I, I-iv:
      How wert thou handled being prisoner?
    she handled the news with grace, the Persians handled the French ambassador shamefully
  6. (transitive) To deal with (a subject, argument, topic, or theme) in speaking, in writing, or in art.
    • Francis Bacon:
      We will handle what persons are apt to envy others...
    • 1976, Krishna Chaitanya, A History of Indian Painting: The modern period, page 21:
      If traditional painting handled the same themes again and again, a truth which people are apt to overlook is that we often get startlingly different compositions of the same theme or episode.
  7. (transitive) To receive and transfer; to have pass through one's hands; hence, to buy and sell.
    a merchant handles a variety of goods, or a large stock
  8. (transitive, rare) To be concerned with; to be an expert in.
    • Jeremiah 2:8 (KJV):
      They that handle the law knew me not
  9. (transitive) To put up with; to endure (and continue to function).
    I can't handle this hot weather.
    • 2014, Andrew Stellman, ‎Jennifer Greene, Learning Agile: Understanding Scrum, XP, Lean, and Kanban (ISBN 1449363857):
      For example, a program that loads data from a file needs to handle the case where that file is not found.
  10. (intransitive) To use the hands.
    • Psalm 115:7:
      They [idols made of gold and silver] have hands, but they handle not
  11. (intransitive) To behave in a particular way when handled (managed, controlled, directed).
    the car handles well
The terms below need to be checked and allocated to the definitions (senses) of the headword above. Each term should appear in the sense for which it is appropriate. Use the template {{sense|"gloss"}}, substituting a short version of the definition for "gloss".
Derived terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.



From Old Norse handla, hǫndla, from hǫnd ‎(hand). In the sense trade influenced by from Middle Low German handelen and German handeln.


  • IPA(key): /hanlə/, [ˈhanlə]


handle ‎(imperative handl, infinitive at handle, present tense handler, past tense handlede, perfect tense har handlet)

  1. act (to do something)
  2. trade, shop




  1. First-person singular present of handeln.
  2. Imperative singular of handeln.
  3. First-person singular subjunctive I of handeln.
  4. Third-person singular subjunctive I of handeln.

Norwegian Bokmål[edit]


From Old Norse handla and German handeln


handle ‎(imperative handl or handle, present tense handler, passive handles, simple past and past participle handla or handlet, present participle handlende)

  1. to act (do something)
  2. to deal, trade, to do business
  3. to shop (visit shops)

Derived terms[edit]