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hand +‎ -s- +‎ breadth


handsbreadth (plural handsbreadths)

  1. a small distance
    • 1855, John Lothrop Motley, The Rise of the Dutch Republic, Volume II.(of III) 1566-74[1]:
      The provinces of Holland and Zealand were stanch and true, but the inequality of the contest between a few brave men, upon that handsbreadth of territory, and the powerful Spanish Empire, seemed to render the issue hopeless.
    • 1905, Annie Besant, Esoteric Christianity, or The Lesser Mysteries[2]:
      As a child, having thrust away the mother's guiding hand and hidden its face against the wall, may fancy itself alone and forgotten, until, turning with a cry, it finds around it the protecting mother-arms that were never but a handsbreadth away; so does man in his wilfulness push away the shielding arms of the divine Mother of the worlds, only to find, when he turns back his face, that he has never been outside their protecting shelter, and that wherever he may wander that guarding love is round him still.