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Alternative forms[edit]


From Old English handselen, or Old Norse handsal. See sell, sale.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈhænd.səl/, /ˈhæn.səl/


handsel (plural handsels)

  1. (obsolete) A lucky omen.
  2. A gift given at New Year, or at the start of some enterprise or new situation, meant to ensure good luck.
    • Fuller:
      their first good handsel of breath in this world
    • Herrick:
      Our present tears here, not our present laughter, / Are but the handsels of our joys hereafter.
  3. The first installment, or first payment of money in a day or series.
  4. (obsolete) price; payment
    • Malory:
      And as I trow, said Sir Sagramore, ye shall have the same handsel that he had.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Spenser to this entry?)

Derived terms[edit]

  • Handsel Monday, the first Monday of the new year, when handsels or presents are given to servants, children, etc.



handsel (third-person singular simple present handsels, present participle handselling or handseling, simple past and past participle handselled or handseled)

  1. (transitive) To give a handsel to.
    • 2002, Joseph O'Connor, Star of the Sea, Vintage 2003, p.55:
      She would leave a gold guinea to hansel the baby.
  2. (transitive) To inaugurate by means of some ceremony; to break in.
    • , Folio Society, 2006, vol.1, p.86:
      And it is better undecently to faile in hanseling the nuptiall bed, full of agitation and fits, by waiting for some or other fitter occasion, and more private opportunitie, lest sudden and alarmed, than to fall into a perpetuall miserie, by apprehending an astonishment and desperation of the first refusall.
  3. (transitive) To use or do for the first time, especially so as to make fortunate or unfortunate; to try experimentally.

Derived terms[edit]