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From Middle English handsum, hondsom, equivalent to hand +‎ -some. Compare Dutch handzaam, German Low German handsaam. The original sense was ‘easy to handle or use’, hence ‘suitable’ and ‘apt, clever’ (mid 16th century), giving rise to the current appreciatory senses (late 16th century).


  • IPA(key): /ˈhæn.səm/[1] or occasionally /ˈhænd.səm/[2]~/ˈhænt.səm/[3]
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  • Hyphenation: hand‧some
  • Homophone: Hansom


handsome (comparative more handsome or handsomer, superlative most handsome or handsomest)

  1. (of people, things, etc) Having a good appearance; good-looking.
    a handsome garment, house, tree, or horse
    • 1916, On H.R. 4683, site for post-office building at Chicago, Ill, page 117:
      On the opposite side of the street, on the corner, is the city hall, a very handsome building of brick and stone.
    • 2006, Richard Leviton, The Gods in Their Cities, iUniverse (→ISBN), page 44:
      Often, human mortals describe their visits to the Tuatha's [places] in similar terms: they were great bright places, occupied by exceedingly handsome men and women, that sported wonderful crystal chairs, inexhaustible supplies of mead or ale ...
    1. (of a man or boy) Visually attractive; pleasant looking, good-looking.
      a handsome man
    2. (of a woman) Striking, impressive and elegantly proportioned, though not typically beautiful.
      • 1662, Samuel Pepys
        I saw, I confess, some good dancing and some handsome women, which was all my pleasure.
      • 1917, Anton Chekhov, Constance Garnett, transl., The Darling and Other Stories[1], Project Gutenberg, published 9 September 2004, →ISBN, page 71:
        The mother, Ekaterina Pavlovna, who at one time had been handsome, but now, asthmatic, depressed, vague, and over-feeble for her years, tried to entertain me with conversation about painting. Having heard from her daughter that I might come to Shelkovka, she had hurriedly recalled two or three of my landscapes which she had seen in exhibitions in Moscow, and now asked what I meant to express by them.
  2. Good, appealing, appropriate.
    • 2011 November 5, Phil Dawkes, “QPR 2 - 3 Man City”, in BBC Sport[2]:
      City have lapped up the plaudits this season for a series of handsome wins but manager Roberto Mancini has demanded that his side also learn to grind out results when they do not play well. He now has an example to point to.
    1. (of weather) Fine, clear and bright.
      • 1808, John Pinkerton, A General Collection of the Best and Most Interesting Voyages and Travels in All Parts of the World, page 513:
        Sunday, the sixth, we heaved up our sheet-anchor again, the day beginning with little wind, and continued handsome weather till eight at night, when the wind came to S. S. W. and it fell a snowing.
      • 1911, Farm Chemicals, page 60:
        The story goes that James Whitcomb Riley, the poet, on a beautiful spring day, in making his way from his home to his office, was accosted by numerous friends on the way who were exclaiming most extravagantly on the beauty of the day. It was "Good morning, Mr. Riley, a fine day;" "Good morning, Mr. Riley, [...] a handsome day;" [...].
    2. Suitable or fit in action; marked with propriety and ease; appropriate.
      a handsome style, etc.
      • (Can we date this quote?), Felton, (Please provide the book title or journal name):
        Easiness and handsome address in writing.
      • 1815, Jane Austen, Emma, Volume I, Chapter 2
        For a few days, every morning visit in Highbury included some mention of the handsome letter Mrs. Weston had received. “I suppose you have heard of the handsome letter Mr. Frank Churchill has written to Mrs. Weston? I understand it was a very handsome letter, indeed. Mr. Woodhouse told me of it. Mr. Woodhouse saw the letter, and he says he never saw such a handsome letter in his life.”
  3. Generous or noble in character.
    Handsome is as handsome does.
  4. Ample; moderately large.
    a handsome salary
    • (Can we date this quote?), V. Knox, (Please provide the book title or journal name):
      He [] accumulated a handsome sum of money.
  5. (obsolete, said of things and people) Dexterous; skillful.
    • (Can we date this quote?), Robynson, Utopia:
      That they [engines of war] be both easy to be carried and handsome to be moved and turned about.
    • (Can we date this quote?), Edmund Spenser, (Please provide the book title or journal name):
      For a thief it is so handsome as it may seem it was first invented for him


Derived terms[edit]



handsome (third-person singular simple present handsomes, present participle handsoming, simple past and past participle handsomed)

  1. (transitive, obsolete) To render handsome.


  1. ^ handsome” in Dictionary.com Unabridged, Dictionary.com, LLC, 1995–present.
  2. ^ handsome” in the Collins English Dictionary
  3. ^ handsome” in Merriam–Webster Online Dictionary.