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hand +‎ wave


handwave (plural handwaves)

  1. (literally) The wave of a hand.
    • 1871, Archibald Forbes, My Experiences of the War Between France and Germany, Volume II, 2005 facsimile edition, Adamant Media Corporation, page 354,
      The leader, an upright, broad-shouldered old man, with snow-white hair, half halts his horse with a handwave of salutation, as he reaches the Imperial Crown Prince, then gallops on with the latter hanging close on his flank.
    • 1991, Robert Barnard, A Scandal in Belgravia[1], page 213:
      " [] In fact I tell this mob"— he gave a derogatory handwave in the direction of the ten or twelve pairs of eyes that were still intent on us—"that I was the original of these Pappa-whatsits."
  2. A glib statement or explanation that glosses over important details.
    • 2008, Hyman P. Minsky, Stabilizing an Unstable Economy[2], page 285:
      In this glib handwave by Friedman, the real results are determined independently of money and financing phenomena; given the way monetarists set up the analysis, the rate of growth of money can only affect the behavior of the price level.


handwave (third-person singular simple present handwaves, present participle handwaving, simple past and past participle handwaved)

  1. (rhetoric, academia) To explain something superficially, skipping over important details, perhaps appealing to intuition instead.
    • 2001, Stephanie Frank Singer, Symmetry in Mechanics: A Gentle, Modern Introduction[3], page 33:
      Some readers may wish to handwave this restriction away, thinking of as a differentiable vector field on that behaves badly at the origin; this approach will suffice for the purposes of this book.


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